Don’t Let Your Credit Cards Gather Dust: The Risks of Inactivity

by joeheg

When you have a drawer full of credit cards, some will be used more than others. After all, some credit cards are simply more effective in helping you achieve your goal of earning as many points as possible.

Sharon and I are a prime example of that. Even though we have over 20 cards, only a few of them are used regularly. We have new cards where we’re trying to hit a spending requirement, cards with annual spending bonuses, and cards that are best for specific purchases like gas, groceries, utilities, cell phone bills, cable bills, and our Bilt card, which earns double points on the first of each month. Additionally, we have cards that we only use for a specific purpose, and that’s where most of our spending goes.

But even the cards at the bottom of the drawer need occasional use because banks will close accounts for inactivity. Check out this video from credit reporting agency Equifax.

When will banks close accounts for inactivity?

It’s not clear how long a bank will keep an inactive account before closing it. Although it is certain that banks will eventually close inactive accounts, the major issuers of no-annual-fee cards did not respond to’s questions about their policies on closing inactive accounts.

According to anecdotal evidence on Reddit and a post on Doctor of Credit, there’s no fixed time frame for a bank to close an account. It can happen anywhere from one year to a decade after opening the account. Some banks will inform the cardholders beforehand about the closure, while others may close the account first and then notify the customer afterward.

I did a quick look at my accounts and noticed that it’s been a while since I charged anything to my IHG Rewards Select card. The $49 annual fee was posted a while ago, which I paid, but that’s the only account activity in over a year. The same thing goes for my Marriott AMEX Card. I keep both of these cards for the free night they provide every year, but I have other co-brand cards for the programs that I use instead.

How to keep accounts active

Nerdwallet has a tip on how to make sure banks do not close your account for inactivity:

Set it on autopilot: Put a small recurring charge, like a subscription for a streaming service, onto a card you no longer use often. Then, set up autopay so you know the bill will be paid in full and on time. Just be sure you have the funds in your bank account to cover the payment each month to avoid overdraft fees.

Why does it matter if a bank closes an account for inactivity?

A credit card canceled for inactivity may impact you in the following ways:

  • It will change your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit you’re using compared to the amount of credit available to you. Creditors and lenders prefer to see a lower ratio of debt to available credit. This could negatively impact your credit score.
  • Closing a card will negatively impact your average age of accounts. The length of time that you have had your credit accounts open is an important factor in determining your creditworthiness. The longer your accounts have been open, the better it is for your credit score

Final Thought

Take a few minutes to look over your credit card accounts to make sure you are charging something at least once a year. Forgetting to do so could lead a bank to close your account for inactivity, which can negatively impact your credit score and possibly make you ineligible for getting the card again.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Christian April 12, 2024 - 12:30 am

Valid. My wife just had a long time card closed by the issuer due to inactivity. It’s too soon to see if this impacts her credit score much but your warnings are good to follow.

STEPHEN April 18, 2024 - 9:38 pm

I believe paying an annual fee would count as activity. A card that gets no use but the account holder pays the annual fee is free money to the bank.
As for no annual fee cards, Wells Fargo sent me a note every 6 months asking me to confirm I wished to keep my Wells Fargo Platinum card, otherwise they were going to close it. So I finally decided to apply for a Wells Fargo Bilt Rewards Mastercard, which I now use on rent day (plus a few eating out charges to keep to the 5 charges per month rule), and then closed the Wells Fargo Platinum no annual fee card.


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