I think many (most? all?) of us are probably a little over-exposed on credit. This means we have the opportunity to borrow more than we can afford and we’re targets for identity theft.
Do you think an identity thief can get far with a maxed-out credit card? Nope, it gets declined everywhere, but an empty credit card is a gem.
Now I’m not saying go max out all your credit cards in order to protect yourself against identity theft, but I do encourage you to be aware of what’s available to a thief if they managed to hack your accounts.
We’ve got some simple steps you can take to look out for your finances and close accounts/ cancel credit cards:
1. Pay off or make a plan to pay off the balance.
Please note that closing an account or canceling a credit card does NOT clear you of any debt. Personally, I always like to completely pay off a card before I close an account, but you can often close an account before paying off the balance. All this means, however, is that you can’t add any more to what you owe and you must still pay off the remaining debt.
2. Watch the account.
Even though I didn’t have a balance on my credit card, I left the account open for another month just to see if there were any purchases I had forgotten about, any surprise outstanding interest or fees, or anything else. After 30 days of no activity, I proceeded to the next step.
3. Call the customer service number.
Tell them you want to cancel your credit card and close the account. If they try to talk you out of it, be firm. They will confirm over the phone that the account has been closed and tell you to go ahead and cut up your credit card — that’s the fun part!
The best I’ve seen in debt destruction is a Viking funeral held for a credit card. If you’re not as creative you can do what I did and just hack it into bits with scissors and throw it in the garbage.
4. Wait for a letter of confirmation that says the account has been closed.
You should get this within 2 weeks of making the call. If you owe anything more on the account, it will tell you here as well as for instructions as to when and how it needs to be paid. KEEP THIS LETTER! File it away and/or scan it to keep an electronic copy. You may need it later!
5. Check your credit report.
You should be getting your free credit report at least once a month to make sure you’ve got your borrowing ducks in a row. All open AND closed credit accounts should show up on your credit report.
When I got mine last summer, it still listed and confirmed that I had closed a department store credit card 4 years ago. Make sure the account you canceled shows up and shows up closed!
It’s important to take diligent care of your credit
If you don’t, you can easily rack up debt, tons of frustrating fees on your bank statement, and low credit scores!
I was planning on doing this tonight after work! I got an Ann Taylor credit card back when they would only give employees a discount if they opened a line of credit — a practice I knew was crummy but I needed to buy interview clothes at a decent discount. Thanks for the pointers!
Be careful when closing out CCs. Part of your score is determined by available credit usage and age of credit. So if you are closing down a high limit card you have had for a while it can really hurt your score. I have a CC I use once a year because it is high limit and I have had it forever just because of this.
Of course if you are worried you are going to rack up a lot of debt on it, you are better off closing it and taking the credit score hit. I really do hate that we are just a “number” to someone…
I know that, but that wasn’t the case here. I’d only had the card for ~1 year and the limit was small ($3,000)
Your credit score only matters if you’re looking to take on more debt. I’m not.
This is really useful actually. Have never done this!
I definitely agree that we are all over exposed to credit cards. They can be dangerous pieces of plastic wrapped up in overspending. As a reformed credit-holic, I stay away from them as much as possible. Good advice about keeping the closing account letter. I’ll be sure to do that in the future!
What provider to you use for your free credit score? I always seem to find ones that look like a scam and ask for money.
Getting your credit score usually costs money, you can only get your credit report for free. You can get your credit report in Canada from TransUnion or Equifax; you can also obtain your credit score from them for I think $35 or something.