You should use your credit card at least once every three months to keep it active (but more often than that if you want your credit score to improve at a faster rate). Not all issuers are the same when it comes to credit card inactivity. Some might never close an inactive card, while others might do it after only a few months. But there aren’t any major credit card companies that state they’ll close your account before it’s been inactive for three months.
Here’s how often you should use your credit card to keep it active:
Amex: No disclosed time limit but will sometimes close based on inactivity. They’ll notify you first and give you a chance to use your card to prevent it, though.
Barclaycard: Will close as soon as 3 months. They won’t notify you in advance.
Capital One: Will close as soon as 12 months. They will notify you beforehand and give you a chance to use your card.
Chase: Will close after 1 year of inactivity. They will send you a letter inviting you to use your card to prevent it from being closed.
Citi: Will close accounts after 24 months of inactivity. They won’t notify you until after they close the account. Only making a purchase counts as activity.
Discover: No disclosed time limit but will notify you if your card is in danger of being closed for inactivity.
U.S. Bank: No disclosed time limit but will sometimes close based on inactivity. May notify you beforehand.
Wells Fargo: Will close accounts after as little as 6 months of inactivity. They will always send a letter ahead of time notifying the cardholder and giving them an opportunity to become active and avoid the closure.
Keep in mind that “activity” could be as little as making a $1 purchase. Making a payment or a balance transfer usually counts too, depending on the issuer. The only notable exception is Citi, who says only new purchases count. And issuers will often contact you if they’re planning to close your account based on inactivity, in order to give you a chance to keep your card by using it. Just make a small charge and you should be all set.
As long as you can afford to, though, you really should use your credit card every month. It’s not a bad thing to have zero balance, but your credit score won’t improve as quickly as it would if you make charges and pay them off. Don’t feel forced to spend, but consider charging at least one small thing.
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