Cancel a card, hurt your credit score
Of course, it's not simply a matter of having diverse sources of
credit. They also want to see responsible credit usage on your part,
including credit card balances in the healthy 30-percent-to-35-percent
range. "That's a sign of an active and responsible credit person,"
Burns says. "On the other hand, if somebody consolidates their credit
cards or revolving credit down to just a handful of credit sources
and has high utilization rate, that will be detrimental to their
And this is where credit-score math gets fuzzy. Many consumers have consolidated outstanding credit card balances into a HELOC, both for the lower rate and because they thought doing so might help their credit scores. (For what it's worth, Fair Isaac's Watts wonders whether mortgage brokers, in an effort to generate more loans, first pitched the myth that canceling a credit card would help your score.) Once again, the answer is "it depends."
"Home equity lines of credit are really interesting creatures when it comes to credit scores," Watts says.
What's interesting is that it may make sense to consolidate
credit card balances into a HELOC because Fair Isaac may
treat the new HELOC as an installment loan rather than a revolving
loan. However, Watts points out, that with Fair Isaac that only
happens if the HELOC is a large line of credit. Small HELOCs are
regarded as revolving lines of credit, much like your credit cards.
Thus, as with credit cards, it might help your credit score in some
cases to close out a HELOC.
"But in all cases, paying down a real estate-based
loan like a mortgage or a HELOC is going to help your score," says
And that seems to be the key to the kingdom when it
comes to credit cards and credit scores: Don't cancel your cards.
them off. And after you've done that, don't send them back.
Cut them up.
Do that, and you have a zero balance enhancing your
credit utilization rate. Do that, and you maintain your credit history
on open accounts. Do that, and your credit mix looks good. Do that,
and you still have the available credit on the card you cut up.
All you have to do is ask for a new card when you need it.
Nevertheless, if you have a compulsion to cancel credit
it the right way. First, cancel your department store cards;
then cancel the newest MasterCard or Visa with the lowest credit
limit, making sure to close the card from the company that doesn't
report credit limits.
"And make sure to keep your credit-utilization ratio
in line as you cancel, paying down balances on your other cards,
if necessary, to keep it in line," says Hendricks. Score one for
Gregory Taggart is a freelance business writer
in Orem, Utah.