Credit cardholders look to their cards as a convenient and ready source of financing. You might be surprised to learn a credit card issuer can close your account without notification for a variety of reasons.
Reader Susan, for one, writes that her credit card was canceled with no notification. She says, “My husband died in April. I thought we were co-account holders on the card. My husband was deaf and I always managed the card. Well, eight months later they canceled my card and didn’t notify me. I always pay off my balance every month as a rule, which is what I always did. I know there were charges on the card. I can’t talk to anyone that will tell me anything. I had several hundred miles on the card. What can I do?”
Banks don’t need to notify about credit card account closings
The Truth in Lending Act requires your card issuer to notify you of certain significant changes to the terms of your card account. For instance, it must notify you at least 45 days in advance before raising some fees and also before raising your card interest rate.
However, if your variable interest rate is based on an index, such as the prime rate, and the index goes up, your issuer does not have to notify you that your interest rate will go up too. The issuer also doesn’t have to give you advance notice when your promotional interest period ends and your interest rate goes up as a result. (You should have already been aware of that from the terms of the promotional offer.)
Issuers also don’t have to notify you in advance if they decide to close your credit card account.
Reasons for an issuer to close a card account
If you are not on board with any change that your card issuer notifies you about in the terms of your credit card account, it could go ahead and close your account.
If you violated the terms of your card agreement in some fashion, that could also cause the bank to shut down your account. Another cause could be that you haven’t used your credit card in a while. Card issuers would then not be making any money off you and they would prefer to extend credit to someone else who makes them money.
Issuers also tend to review your financial situation from time to time. They could look into your creditworthiness and decide whether to continue doing business with you. They could consider input such as the number of late payments on your account, if you have any liens against you, how many new credit accounts you have, and if you have overextended yourself. If they find your financial situation has deteriorated since they first approved you for their card, they could well decide to cancel it.
Talk to your card issuer
Whatever the reason, if you did not like this surprise and want to hold on to your card, your best bet is to negotiate with the issuer. Tell your bank representative that you want to continue using your card and see what they can do for you.
Susan, it must have been an unpleasant experience to have your credit card shut down, curtailing your finances, following the loss of your husband. If you are a joint account holder on your card with your ex-husband, your issuer cannot close the account or modify its terms just on account of his death. However, it might want to see if you continue to qualify for the card on your own strength to decide whether to continue to extend credit to you.
As for the miles you have on the card, whether you can retain them after a card’s closing depends on what type of miles these are. If they’re made out by your card issuer itself, most likely you will not have access to them following a card’s closing. However, if the miles are issued by another entity, such as an airline, in a tie-up with the issuer, you will likely be able to hold on to those miles since they will post with the airline itself and not the issuer.
The bottom line
A card issuer can close your credit card without advance notification. If you haven’t been using your card or if you violated the terms of your card account, that could lead the issuer to close it. It can periodically review your account and in case you appear less creditworthy than when you opened the account, that could be another cause for an issuer to close your account. In any event, if you want to hold on to the account, you should negotiate with the issuer. Susan, I hope you can make a good case to keep your account.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your credit card-related questions.