Are There Consequences If You Stop Using a Credit Card?

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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.

Are There Consequences If You Stop Using A Credit Card

Does Your Sock Drawer Look Like This?

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?

Account Closure

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.

Are There Consequences If You Stop Using A Credit Card

Banks Can Close Your Credit Card Account Without Warning!

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!

Are There Consequences If You Stop Using A Credit Card

Stay at the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort With the Annual Free Night From the Chase IHG Card

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.

Bottom Line

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?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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7 responses to “Are There Consequences If You Stop Using a Credit Card?

  1. I try to use all mine as you say but does it look worse on a credit report if a bank closes an account rather than the customer?

  2. I called the companies a while ago and specifically asked about inactive account closures. Most of them indicated that there was no hard and fast rule. That is to say, accounts are not closed automatically by the system if you reach these levels of inactivity, but I find it to be a helpful guideline.

    – Barclaycard – 6 months
    – Bank of America – 6 months
    – Citi – 2 years
    – Capital One – 2 years
    – AmEx – 2 years
    – Chase – 2 years? (couldn’t get a straight answer from Chase)

    FWIW, I have a Bank of America card that has been inactive for more than 6 months, so these are really not cut and dry. It’s just the amount of time I wouldn’t want to leave my cards I care about inactive.

  3. Yes, Citi closed my husbands citi hilton card for not using it for some time. We got them to open it back up after some serious begging. Now, I make sure to use all of my cards every once in a while.

  4. Good article. And, Khad’s homework is very informative and issuer specific

  5. Think these rules apply to cards with annual fees as well? I keep my Chase IHG card because I always use the free night certificate every year. But I doubt I’ve used the card since I got the signup bonus several years ago. I wouldn’t think an issuer would close down an account where you’re paying an annual fee, but you never know I guess.

  6. @josh
    Good question. I’m curious about that.
    Plus if you paid annual fee and they cancelled it, would you get a refund on the fee.

  7. What a timely post. I just got a letter from Chase and they are closing my Slate Card. The letter states there is nothing I can do to stop it. I have not used it…actually forgot about it. It doesn’t earn points so I almost always use my Chase Freedom or Ink cards.