Can Credit Cards Be Canceled Due To Inactivity?

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A few days ago I wrote about the 21 credit cards that I have right now. There are different reasons that I have these cards.

Some cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, are worth having for the excellent bonus categories they offer for everyday spend. Other cards, like The World of Hyatt Credit CardIHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, and Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, are worth having for the anniversary free night certificates that they offer, which more than justify the annual fees.

One question I’m often asked is if credit card issuers close card accounts due to inactivity. In other words, could your card be canceled if you don’t put any spend on it?

Why banks may want to cancel inactive credit cards

Credit card issuers take on a risk when they issue you credit. The way they make money is with annual fees, merchants fees (when you buy stuff with your card), and interest charges (which don’t apply if you pay off your balance in full every month).

Ultimately there’s an opportunity cost for card issuers to giving you credit that you’re not utilizing, since they could otherwise be extending that credit to someone who is more likely to spend money on the card. In theory it’s not unreasonable for a card issuer to want to close your account if you don’t show any activity on a card, especially if it’s a no annual fee card, where there’s limited upside for them (it’s very rare for them to close a card with an annual fee due to inactivity).

Why you want credit cards open (even if you’re not spending on them)

As I hinted at above, there are several reasons it could make sense to have a card open, even if you don’t spend much money on it. Some cards are worth having for the perks that they offer, which more than justify the annual fee.

In other cases, having cards open can actually help your credit score. Your credit score is made up of the following factors:

  • 35% of your score is your payment history (the percentage of payments you’ve made on-time)
  • 30% of your score is your credit utilization (how much credit you’re using compared to your total limits)
  • 15% of your score is your credit age (the average age of your open accounts)
  • 10% of your score is the types of credit you use (how many different types of requests for credit you have)
  • 10% of your score is your requests for new credit (how many times you’ve applied for credit)

So at least 45% of your credit score (and possibly much more) is positively impacted by having more cards open for a long period of time.

30% of your score is your credit utilization, which measures the total amount of available credit that you’re using. If you have a card with a credit line that you’re not using, then that contributes positively to your credit score, since it lowers your overall credit utilization.

Furthermore, 15% of your score is your average credit age, so having some cards open long term contributes positively to that metric.

My experience having cards closed due to a lack of activity

Knock on wood, but I’ve never had a card closed due to inactivity. Ever. And there are some cards I just don’t spend money on. For example, I’ve had the Alaska Airlines Visa Card for years, since it has a $75 annual fee and offers an annual companion certificate that I find to be more than worthwhile. It has been years since I’ve spent money on the card, but my account is still open.

So maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve never faced this issue.

Based on looking at data points online, it appears that when this does happen, it’s more common from Capital One and US Bank, and less common from American Express, Chase, and Citi. Furthermore, it seems most common when there’s no activity on a card for at least 12 months.

Also keep in mind that the issuer may consider your overall relationship with them when deciding whether to shut down a card. In other words, if you have five cards with an issuer and use four regularly, they’d probably be less likely to close down the fifth than if you just have one card and never have any activity on it.

So maybe I’m lucky that I’ve never faced this issue, but that’s my experience.

Making small purchases could prevent cards being closed

If you are someone who is concerned about your card being closed due to inactivity, the easiest way to prevent the possibility of this is to just make a few small charged every few billing cycles. Card issuers are unlikely to close a card account if it has activity on it, and the opportunity cost of putting some small purchases on a card every month or so shouldn’t be huge.

Bottom line

Personally I’ve never had issues with a card account being closed due to lack of activity. However, it is something I’ve heard of happening occasionally. If this is something you worry about and want to prevent, I recommend using a card for a couple of small purchases every few billing cycles to keep it active.

Has anyone ever had a card closed due to lack of activity? What were the circumstances?

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Comments

  1. I’ve had cards with no annual fee cancelled due to inactivity. They were inactive for way more than 12 months though, more like two or three years.

    Any card with a fee however, they’re probably happy to keep open as long as you keep paying the annual fee.

  2. Barclay’s co-branded Choice Hotels no fee credit card about 1 year ago. Inactive over 3 years. No great loss.

  3. Citi closed my only business card with them two months ago for this very reason. I have two open personal cards with some activity but I had been downgraded from Citi Gold to Citi Priority banking last year (as a number of accounts were). I did lower my $50K in deposits for Gold down to $15K since I did not need the discounted Prestige annual fee any longer.

  4. Citi closed a credit card with 20 years of history and 20,000 of credit due to inactivity. Needless to say I was not pleased.

  5. Glad I’m not the only one hit by Citi on this. They closed my Double Cash due to 24 months of inactivity. Fortunately it was younger than my average account age, so the closure slightly improved my scores.

  6. NOTE WELL – If Citi closes your account, that renders you ineligible for a new card bonus within that “family” for the next 24 months per their stupid rule

  7. Like @Richard, Citi did close a credit card I’d had for a very long time — since 1986 or 32 years and it was my first CC ever — due to inactivity. Because it would clearly have affected the length of my credit history and, as a result, my credit score, I contacted Citi and requested that it be reopened. They said I had make the request in writing, which I did and the account was promptly reopened…

  8. Based on the very limited number of comments here, it seems that Citi has been the worst “offender”… (and I am not surprised).

  9. Had a Cap One card closed with no notice. Had 35k of credit. I also was not happy. They still send me balance updates after 6 months on a closed cc. Go figure.

  10. I’ve definitely had cards closed due to inactivity, and unfortunately, I haven’t learned my lesson and it’s happened multiple times. Chase closed a couple of cards with no AF that I hasn’t used in probably 2+ years (this was after I also had multiple cards I did put most of my spend on).
    Capital One closed one on New years ago – my only.card and one I hadn’t spent on in years.

  11. My wife had her Citi AA card closed for inactivity last year.

    And she just found out yesterday that her Nordstrom card, that she only kept so she could shop the sales during the “member only pre-sale days”, but never charged anything on, was closed without Nordstrom telling her they closed it. Despite her spending lots of $ at Nordstrom over many years, but only with bank ccs, they flatly refused to reopen her card. Only option they gave her was to reapply, meaning another HP on her CR.. 🙁

  12. Chase closed my Slate card after over a year of inactivity, despite a number of other cards with them, plus a checking account. They did let me transfer most of the credit to my Freedom card.

  13. Boa closed my second oldest card for inactivity twoish years ago. It had probably been inactive for 18 months. I had another card with them i used frequently. I also had my checking account with them for years. They would not reopen it without a hard pull. I wasn’t happy, but am careful now with all my cards to charge a small charge every 6-9 months.

  14. set up ACH or bill pay for $ a month automatically.
    BOA stay alive for yrs w/o me doing anything. when it reaches certain amount they will refund it with a check.

  15. The only accounts I’ve had that were canceled due to inactivity were worthless Ikea and Circuit City cards. If you’re losing cards that are actually valuable to you, probably you have opened too many accounts to keep track of.

  16. Citi closed a Hilton honors card and Macy’s closed one. Both had been unused for a pretty long stretch.

  17. I’ve had no fee Citi cards closed several times. By contrast, Barclays contacted me threatening to close an inactive account, but saying I could avoid that by using the card, so I did, and the card remained opne. Very much appreciated the warning as compared to Citi, which gave me no chance to use the card again before closing it.

  18. On, don’t get me going on this…. Capital One closed an account I had had for years (I had even personalized the appearance using a photograph from our 25th anniversary celebration on the island of Santorini — how romantic!) without any notice whatsoever. I realize it is my responsibility for shifting my spend to more rewarding cards (e.g., CSR, AmEx Platinum, etc.); it was Capital One’s lack of notice and the utter lack of flexibility that really got under my skin. I attempted to appeal, was penitent (offering to commit to more regular use of the card) but there was absolutely no budging by Capital One. I will never bank with them again as a result so instead of a customer who had once used their card regularly but had become irregular, they lost a customer for life. Go figure!

  19. @ Ben — You should be (or maybe should have been since they’ve tightened up some) churning the hell out of that BoA AS card!

  20. Citi and Capital One are notorious for closing inactive accounts. Chase sent me a warning letter for Chase Slate, so I am using it frequently these days.

  21. I’ve had 2 old cards canceled due to inactivity, mostly due to my own ineptitude. Paying the bills each month is easy, but it requires considerably more diligence to monitor and maintain cards that you never use. In my case, I pull out the shoebox each December, stuff a pile of cards in my pocket, and go make individual token purchases on each of them, so they stay alive. This isn’t a big deal for any Visa/MC/Discover cards. A $1 gas purchase is sufficient and it’s easy enough to take care of all of them with a single visit to a gas station. The store cards are a bit more tedious. I lost a target card that I’d had for 6 years because of a issue with having a new card shipped out, not having it activated, and trying to figure all of that out, all the while, requiring a visit to a Target store to use it. I missed it getting canceled by 4 days. If I was smart, I would have made an online purchase the moment I received the replacement card in the mail, but alas I didn’t.

    The next fun game is logging into all of the accounts to pay that one bill, which I do a week later for all of the cards, to ensure that I don’t accidentally overlook any of them, and then repeat the process again a month later to make sure all of them posted before the due dates.

    It’s becoming less of a concern now though, I’ve now got over 20 open accounts that have over 4 years of history, so losing a single card isn’t going to hurt quite as much, nor does adding a new card (or 6) impact the AOC as severely.

  22. Chase recently closed our old Slate card that had been inactive for quite a while.
    We called and Chase was happy to move the entire credit line over to our Sapphire card.

  23. Several years ago, BOA closed one of my no-fee accounts after about 18 months of inactivity. I learned my lesson and now make it a point to buy a bottle of soda once every 3 months or so on any cards I don’t use regularly.

    I suspect you won’t have this issue on cards that charge an AF, as long as you keep paying the fee.

  24. Citi closed my professional biz card due to inactivity over 24 months. Fidelity sent me a letter warning to cancel my debit card unless I responded to explicitly asking the debit card to remain open.

  25. CapitalOne closed one of my cards with them a month ago. I hadn’t used it for a least 2 years. I am a lil mad as I have had it since high I was in college for about 18 years.

  26. Citi closed my oldest card a few years back… I opened it back when I started college… No prior warning or anything. I just got a notice that it was already closed for lack of activity. Sad, since it was my first card.

    I opened a Barclay card via Apple… Never used it after I paid it off a few months later… They closed it after 2 years of no activity.

    Now I use my Square reader/account to post transactions every few months to each of my credit cards that I don’t use on a regular bases.

  27. Had a Chase Amazon card closed after 12 months of inactivity. I’d been using the Amazon store card instead and neglected the Chase card. Raised hell about it and finally Chase reinstated it.

  28. TD will also close it, but they will inform weeks in advance via email and they will let you know that if you do put spend on it; it will not be closed due to inactivity.

  29. Simple solution – just use every card for some monthly bill. I have 8-10 year old cards that I have no use for anymore. I just use them to pay off some monthly bills like my gym membership, phone bill, etc so they stay active. They’re paid off with auto pay, and rewards are set to provide annual statement credits, so I literally don’t have to lift a finger for the entire process.

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