Do you have a question about consumer credit? You may find an immediate answer by using the search engine. If you can't find what you're looking for, please fill out the form, being as specific as possible.
Please note: The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. However, if your question is of interest to a wide audience of consumers, the Experian team will include it in a future column.
The information contained in this column if for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult your own attorney or seek specific advice from a legal professional regarding your particular situation.
Please understand that Experian policies change over time. Column responses reflect Experian policy at the time of writing. While maintained for your information, archived responses may not reflect current Experian policy.
Topics addressed on April 15, 2009:
Closing account when credit card company changes terms
We received a “change in terms” notice from one of our credit card companies, increasing our interest from 7.90 percent to 17.90 percent, and from fixed to variable. Which decision will be best for our credit ratings, closing the account or paying it off and keeping it open at the higher rate, but not using it?
As with so many questions about credit reports and credit scores, the answer is that it depends on your overall credit history.
Generally, it is better to pay off the account balance and keep the account open. Credit scores are affected by your utilization rate, which is the ratio of your total account balances to your total available credit limits. The lower your utilization rate, the better.
Keeping the account open ensures that the card’s credit limit is included in the calculation. Paying off the balance further reduces the utilization rate. If you have no other credit cards that have a lower interest rate, you should use the card periodically and pay the balance in full each month just to keep the account active. If you have no credit activity, there is no basis for predicting your risk.
However, credit scores should not be the only factor in your decision. Too often I hear from people who are buried in debt, and the last thing they should be concerned about is their credit scores.
If you are deeply in debt, are struggling to make your payments on time, or already have late payments, closing the account could be the right thing for you to do, especially if you are tempted to use it. It would be better to close the account than risk digging yourself deeper into trouble.
In that case, credit scores are not important because you shouldn’t be taking on more debt, anyway. Instead, you should be taking steps to reduce the debt you already have and making sure you don’t add to it.
Congratulations on recognizing that you need to avoid high interest payments. No matter what your debt position, that is such a smart thing to do.
Thanks for asking.
- The "Ask Experian" team