Everyday Cheapskate: How to Break Up With Your Credit Card Account

September 9, 2020 Updated: September 9, 2020

Closing a credit card account is not for the faint of heart. So, why bother? Oh, let me count the ways:

No. 1: Excessive lines of credit—even those with a $0 balance—can wreak havoc on your credit rating.

No. 2: Many open lines of credit are difficult to manage.

No. 3: Let’s not forget that temptation factor.

Truth be told, all you really need is one—two at the most—good, all-purpose credit cards.

Now, before we get into how to close accounts, let’s look at the facts. Banks, credit card companies, and retail credit granters are very keen on retaining their revolving “open-end” credit accounts (from the Latin root meaning there’s no end to the amount of money we intend to squeeze from you during your lifetime).

These companies paid dearly to bait, snag, and reel you in. You’re an asset on the balance sheet. And since the time you first met, it’s likely you’ve rewarded them handsomely.

When they learn you’re breaking up, they will not be happy. In fact, they may ignore your every attempt to do so. Note: It is not advisable to close an account until you have achieved a $0 balance. To do otherwise invites an interest increase to the maximum allowed by law and possibly a demand for the entire balance to be paid immediately.

Make the Call

Find the toll-free number for customer service (find it on the back of the credit card, on the last statement, or possibly on your credit report). Tell the rep to close your account. You’ll get an argument, of course, but stick to your guns. Say, “Close my account, and report it closed to the credit bureaus.” Make a note of the full name of the person you spoke with and the date you made this request.

Send the Letter

Immediately follow up with a letter referring to your conversation and restating your instruction. Enclose the credit card, which you’ve cut into pieces, if you still have it. Send this letter by certified mail with delivery confirmation. This will cost you a couple of bucks in addition to the regular postage. Once you get that signed receipt back, attach it to your copy of the letter.

Follow Up

In about two weeks, call customer service again to confirm your account is closed. Assume it won’t be (they’re fighting you here, so expect them to deny ever hearing from you at all). Repeat your verbal instructions: Close this account!

Verify

In about three months, order a copy of your credit report (from AnnualCreditReport.com). If the account shows “closed at request of customer” or something similar, you’ve achieved success.

Repeat as Necessary

Until the account is reported as closed, go back to step one and go through all the steps again. You could get full cooperation on your first call, or it could take several rounds to permanently part company with this account.

Lesson to Be Learned

It’s a lot easier to get a credit card than to get rid of one. Simply cutting it up is not good enough. Even if you have all the current information such as your account number, the customer service phone number, and the address, it could cost you in time, trouble, and postage. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to start “dating around” by signing up for a new credit card.

Caution

In the interest of your credit score, do not cancel more than one credit card account every six months. Canceling multiple accounts at the same time could cause a temporary drop in your score.

Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments, and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Copyright 2020 Creators.com