How to Keep Credit Cards on File

Your older credit card accounts are beneficial to your credit rating, the FICO credit score company explains. When calculating your credit score, FICO considers the length of your overall credit history and long-time accounts add points. You can actually hurt your score by closing these accounts, so it's better to keep them on file even if you don't really need them any longer. You will need to maintain the accounts properly so the card issuers won't close the accounts for inactivity.

File your unused credit cards in a safe storage spot like a locked drawer, cabinet or safe. If someone steals a filed card and uses it, you might not realize it until the statement arrives. This will be prevented by proper, secure storage.

Remove your filed cards from their storage spot twice each year and use them for small purchases. Clark Howard, host of a consumer finance radio show, explains that buying something every six months will keep the accounts active and prevent the banks from automatically closing them. Keep the transaction small enough to be fully paid when the statement arrives. Put the cards back in your file immediately after you use them.

Destroy the filed credit cards when they expire. Privacyalerts.org recommends using a shredder or extremely sharp scissors. Make sure the numbers are not legible, and scratch the magnetic strip before you cut it into small pieces. Activate their replacements, which should arrive automatically in the mail, then file them away and use them in the same manner.

Tips

  • Turn down credit increases that may be offered on your filed credit cards. Banks may offer a higher limit to encourage you to use the cards. Having more available credit can hurt your score, according to FICO. Call the customer service department and tell the representative you are declining the increase.

Warnings

  • Some credit card companies only allow a short period of inactivity before they impose a fee, Peter Davidson of MSN Money warns. They might charge $15 or more if you do not use your cards as frequently as they require. Read your contract for the exact terms and use older cards more often than twice a year if that is required to avoid fees.

References

About the Author

Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."