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Million Mile Secrets reader Richard emailed:
I just received my IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card and was wondering how often I should use it. If you have a bunch of cards, is it OK to not use one for a certain amount of time while you are spending on other cards?
Richard wants to know if anything bad will happen to an infrequently used credit card.
Points and miles enthusiasts often have lots of credit cards. Many of us have more than we can carry at once! So is it OK to go a long time without using some cards?
Can You Pause Spending on a Card?
Richard CAN put some credit cards in the sock drawer while he spends on other cards. There’s nothing wrong with alternating which credit cards he uses the most. There are good reasons for doing this!
Most often, folks stop spending on older cards when they’re working to meet the minimum spending requirements on new cards to earn a sign-up bonus.
Or there may be a promotion or rotating category bonus that earns more miles, points, or cash back with a certain card.
For example, Discover’s current promotion will double the cash back you earn for your first year as a cardholder.
You might decide to swap your Citi® Double Cash Card instead for the Discover it® Miles for the first year. Because you’ll effectively earn 3% back with the Discover it Miles in the first 12 months of opening your account. Then switch back to the Citi Double Cash after the Discover promotion ends.
But Richard WILL want to use each of his cards from time to time. Because banks have been known to close accounts they feel have been idle for too long.
What Can Happen?
Banks sometimes close credit cards for inactivity. And they can do it without alerting you beforehand! If Richard goes too long without using his card, Chase MIGHT close his account.
This will affect the average age of Richard’s account history, as well as his overall available credit. Both of these things can negatively affect your credit score.
Difficulty Acquiring Future Cards
Each bank examines how we use the cards they’ve issued us, to decide whether they want to give us more credit.
For example, Barclaycard looks at how often you use the cards they’ve already given you before considering you for more.
If you stop using your cards after receiving your sign-up bonus, banks may view you as a less desirable customer. And might be less willing to approve your other card applications!
How to Prevent Inactivity
If Richard likes his card, there are a couple things he can do to avoid having it closed. The Chase IHG Rewards Card is an especially good card to keep, because of the annual free night at ANY IHG hotel worldwide!
Banks do not outline the amount of time your card can be idle before they consider closing a card. But in general you should use your card at least once every ~6 months. Even if it’s for a pack of gum at the gas station.
Richard can also add a recurring payment, such as Netflix or a phone bill, to his card. This will keep his card active every month! And if he adds auto-pay to the card, he’ll never have to think about it.
It is OK to stop using some credit cards while you increase your spending on others. There are reasons you SHOULD do this, like rotating category bonuses and special promotions.
But banks sometimes close credit cards that have been inactive for a long time. And that can affect your credit score! Using your credit card every ~6 months should keep it active.
Have you had any account closure experiences from inactivity?