Update v2: Check out a great new tool, WalletHub, on how to track your credit score on a daily basis.
Update: Please note that this post only applies to banks that do not allow canceling a card via their "secure message" feature. If you are able to cancel via secure message, simply pay off the balance and then message your bank.
You've made it! You applied for a card, hit the card spend and got the bonus miles. Maybe you have already gone on that dream trip, all without paying any fees.
So now what? It is time to cancel your card without hurting your credit score – here is how to do it.
- Step 1: Pay off your balance. This is typically done one to two months prior to closing the card. The goal is to have a statement that shows $0 before moving forward.
- Step 2: Think ahead. Is there a no-fee version of the card you can downgrade to for free and keep the credit history? If so, keep that knowledge top of mind when you call in. Or, alternatively, is there another card at the same bank you’ve been eyeing? If so, apply for it first! Often times you can use a credit limit from an old card in order to be approved for a new card, so it is worth thinking ahead before calling to cancel.
- Step 3: Download my helpful document, available to download by clicking here. The instructions are similar to this post, but the second page is key - fill this form out with your information before moving forward.
- Step 4: Find your bank’s contact information, found on my Tools page. And, with the document from Step 3 handy, call them. If you are redirected to a robot, just tell it (or her?) you'd like to "cancel the card" - trust me, those three words will get you a representative ASAP.
- Step 5: Tell the person on the phone why you are canceling it. My reason is almost always the same: the card is not worth the fee to me. You are under no obligation to keep the card, so even if they ask a few - or ten - times if you’d like to keep it, stand your ground. Also, be prepared for offers to keep the card in the form of waived fees and bonus miles since these are the norm for some banks.
- Step 6: This step is optional and for those that like that extra peace of mind (like me). If you decide to, write down the details of your call on the form I provided from Step 3 and then mail it to your bank. The address can be found at the bank’s contact page on my Tools page or by asking the phone representative.
Now a couple important reminders: if the card you are thinking about canceling is your oldest card or has a particularly large credit line, it may be worth keeping (or at least downgrading to a no-fee version) to preserve your credit score.
If you are worried about how a card may or may not affect your credit score, I recommend reading my blog post on the subject to better understand this important financial figure. CreditKarma also has a great "credit score calculator" that predicts what the impact would be for canceling cards.
And that’s it – relatively quick and painless, especially when you keep in mind all the free miles you earned from whichever card it may be. As always, if you have a question about a particular bank or card just comment below and I'll do my best to help out.