Just an FYI out there for those who may not know that, even though your credit score can be in the high “700s” and/or even in the low “800s”, it often times does not help you in acquiring a credit card, loan, or anything else you may wish to get on credit if you have very limited credit. My friend, unfortunately, found out that the hard way. DO NOT CLOSE DOWN your credit card accounts even if you paid them off and are not using them. KEEP THEM OPEN! Even try to spend $5 a month on them once a month to keep your history current and good.

She had several credit cards and a couple of large loans over the years, and had been a member of a Credit Union for many years. She was even diligent on never being late on payments, made larger payments than the minimum, and did everything the right way to pay off her credit cards and loans over those years, even paying them off early.
BUT, this is what she did not know until recently, in the last year or two when the economy and the banks started going quickly downhill; when the economy, jobs, and banks started ‘going to pot’, she did what a lot of other people that may have done under panic, instead of just holding on to her credit cards after paying them off, she instead chose to close the accounts down, since she felt that her bank debit card and checking account was all she would need to reopen or apply again to receive credit cards or a loan, thinking that her excellent credit score would take care of the issue of worrying about getting credit. Wrong!!

She recently applied again for her credit union’s Visa card after closing it down over 18 months ago. Even with the credit union’s knowledge of her great credit scores and payment histories on all three credit bureaus they could not give her a Visa card due to the simple fact that she no longer showed a credit history of payments in the last eighteen to twenty-four months.

She asked them if they saw her past credit history and they said yes, acknowledging that it was great BUT the accounts were closed and they could only use the current opened accounts, which those payment histories were great, but did not have enough of current credit to qualify for a Visa card of $1000.00, or even $500. The only thing they could do for her to start building up her credit history up again was their own line of credit for $500 to start. To say the least, she was stunned! She never dreamed or even thought that because she closed her accounts down, she would not receive credit from her own credit union or other companies, for that matter.

Before all this economy, jobs, and banks started going down the tubes, so to speak, she spoke about how she was able to close accounts down and then simply reopen them with the good standing credit histories, even if they were closed for a time. Now they just use your credit history from current opened accounts to qualify you for a credit card or loan.

Well, she learned a big lesson on how the credit industry had changed recently.
She is getting credit again, but slowly and limited. She was able to get a Discover Card at a surprising excellent rate and a high limit. She inquired why Discover accepted her when other didn’t, and they said they also took her past credit history along with her current high FICO scores into consideration and they felt that she was a very good risk.

Please remember; again if you pay off those credit cards, consider that you do NOT want to close them all. Even if you do not use them. Your credit rating will look good, you’ll keep all your history current, and you will not be as I was, having headaches starting over.

5 Comments

  1. sylvialh // Friday, February 11, 2011 5:21:00 AM  

    I've always struggled with the the "right" amount of credit. I keep credit cards because they are easy, sometimes necessary for paying for some things like restaurants and holidays. But I always pay them off so I don't really need to have 10,000$ worth of credit at my disposal. I keep one for the free groceries, and one for the car rental insurance (I have a bill that goes onto that card automatically monthly, but besides that I only use the second card to pay for car rentals)

    So, while I understand that you shouldn't just close ALL your accounts, and that you shouldn't have TOO much credit either, how much SHOULD you keep on hand.

    I've read that if you have too much "available" credit they consider you a risk, because if you do use it all, and you use the loan that they have secured you as well, you would be in a situation where you wouldn't be able to pay for it all...

    so should I keep my credit cards until I decide to apply for mortgage and then close one or bring down the limits?

  2. Hollis Colquhoun // Friday, February 11, 2011 6:54:00 AM  

    dawn,
    Really good info! One of the good changes in credit reporting is that Experian is now including good rental payment behavior as part of its VantageScore calculation so if you don't have much outstaning credit, you're a student or someone who's trying to rebuild credit after a foreclosure or bankruptcy, you can get points for being a responsible tenant.

  3. Anonymous // Friday, February 11, 2011 10:00:00 AM  

    If you have no debt and are living within a budget why do you need a credit card? If you are fortunate enough to have escaped debt don't go back to it!

  4. Dawn // Saturday, February 12, 2011 4:51:00 PM  

    @Sylvialh
    My understanding is that a high debt to income ratio is worse than the number of paid off cards that are open. However, check with your mortgage broker for the best and latest information.

    @Hollis
    Thank you for that updated information!

    @Anon
    If you can pay cash for major purchases - house, car and the repairs that go along with those, then you would be correct. However, having an good and current credit history is always handy, even if the cards are not used.

  5. krantcents // Sunday, February 13, 2011 5:48:00 PM  

    Many people have difficulty with credit cards and debt! Rather than control it, it is easier to not use it and go on a cash basis. I view credit cards as a convenience and to receive rewards. Credit bureaus rely on credit card balances and available credit to evaluate your financial responsibility as a score. That is why we have to be careful about canceling cards.