Posted by Chuck on August 22, 2019
Credit Cards

Published on August 22nd, 2019 | by Chuck

89

Which Banks Close Credit Cards For Inactivity?

Some banks will close out a credit card which has been inactive for a while. If you don’t want to lose the card, be sure to give it some use. Charging something once per year should do the trick.

It’s worth noting that people often keep open their oldest card or two to help their Average Age of Accounts on their credit score. Often these are useless, no-fee cards, but they are desirable for credit purposes. Putting a charge on each card once per year should do the trick, in any event. It’s also worth remaining vigilant on cards which hold points balances (though there are often grace periods to redeem those points after account closure).

Some banks will give notice of the impending account closure; they’ll even sometimes tell you to use it or lose it. Others only send notice after the fact. Even if your card is closed, you can often have it reopened if you notice the closure quickly, see this related post: Which Card Issuers Will Reopen a Closed Credit Card?

Only no-fee cards get closed out; cards with annual fees don’t.

American Express

A report indicates that American Express will sometimes close after 12-13 months of inactivity with no advance warning. Others report getting an email about the impending closure, and they tell you to use it within the next 35 days if you don’t want it closed. (1) And that’s the official word from Amex as well.

Bank of America

Bank of America will close out a card that hasn’t been used for 24 months. They’ll first send you a letter with 30 days to use it or lose it. (1, 2) Others had it closed after a few years with no warning. (1)

Barclay’s

Barclay’s reportedly will close a card automatically after 18 months or 2 years of inactivity. (1, 2) They close without advance notification (1, 2) or possibly with advance notification (1).

Capital One

Capital One isn’t quick to close an inactive account, but a reader says that it can happen after several years. Apparently, it’s when the card expires and they need to issue a new one, they just cancel it instead. (1) Readers mention a 3 or 4 year timeframe for closure, with advance notice as well. (1, 2)

Chase

We wrote a dedicated post on Chase. Based on that post and the comments there, it appears that Chase will potentially close out a card in two scenarios (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7):

  • If it’s been inactive for a year AND your card is expiring, they won’t reissue you a new card. The old card will continue to work until expiration. They do give you a headsup before closing, and it’s easy to simply call in and ask them to keep it open.
  • Others report that a card can be closed after almost 2 years of inactivity.

They do give you a headsup before closing, and it’s easy to simply call in and ask them to keep it open. In some cases, they’ll tell you to use the card if you want to keep it open.

Citi

I just had a Citi Dividend card shut down for inactivity. A Chat rep told me that it happens after 25+ months of inactivity and others report the same (1). Others also report (1, 2, 3) getting their Citi cards closed for inactivity.

Citi will send you a letter after the fact telling you it’s closed. You can call in and request it be reopened (up to 60 days, reportedly), though it may require a hard pull.

Discover

Readers had their Discover IT closed for inactivity (1). A report indicates that it’s closed after 18 months, and that they’ll sometimes mail a 30 day warning before closing. You can not get it reopened without doing a new application. (1)

Elan Financial

Elan runs various credit cards, such as the Fidelity 2% card. Reportedly, they don’t close out cards, even after a few years. (1, 2) [Elan is a division of US Bank, but doesn’t necessarily have the same inactivity policy as them.]

FNBO

FNBO will give you a warning before closing out your card, telling you to put a charge on it if you want to keep it. (1)

PenFed

One report has PenFed closing a card after 24 months of inactivity. They did give notice 6 months in advance. (1)

Store Cards

Here are some reports on various stores cards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

  • My only experience here is with the Best Buy (Citi) store card which hasn’t been shut down due to years of inactivity.
  • Others report getting various store cards (Citi) closed after inactivity (1, 2).
  • Amazon store card reportedly gets closed after 2 years of inactivity (1).
  • The Target store credit card will close out after 1-1.5 years of inactivity. (1)
  • Report of Comenity Meijer card being closed out after around 2 years of inactivity.

Synchrony

Reader reports having their Sam’s Synchrony card shut down for inactivity (1, 2), apparently as little as a year of inactivity (1). Some had success getting it reopened upon request.

US Bank

I have a card with US Bank which has gone for years without activity and hasn’t been closed out. Others report that after 12 months of inactivity they’ll send a letter that they’ll be closing it out. (1) Others had it closed after a few years without warning. (1)

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo closes out account after a year of inactivity (or possibly even slightly less). You lose your points and have no recourse, so be careful with Wells. (1, 2, 3)

Final Thoughts

In closing, I’ll put here a long comment from creditGuyInDixie which summarizes the topic and adds some interesting details:

  • Closure due to inactivity happens to almost all cards that have no annual fee.
  • Different issuers vary their time windows.
  • Many issuers will close without giving you warning.
  • Even with a specific issuer, their back end algorithms have triggers that are hard to pin down. There will always be weird outliers where a person will not use a major credit card for five years without it being closed. It’s unwise to expect you will be this lucky. Better is to err on the side of being less lucky (more about specific recommendations below).
  • Closure is only one example of AA or Adverse Action. Even more common is a Credit Limit Decrease (CLD).

Here is a summary of current wisdom for avoiding CC closure due to inactivity, based on what we have seen over at myFICO.

  • Always activate a new card within ten days of receiving it.
  • Always use a new card for at least one purchase in the first 50 days.
  • Major cards (Visa, MC, Discover, Amex logo): using it once every 6 months should protect you 100% against early closure and most AA.
  • Store cards (no major logo): once every 12 months should be safe.

Note that the strategies above go a bit overboard from what you strictly speaking might need. Past data seem to indicate that most closures due to inactivity happen in the 13-18 month range for major cards (with some cases being reported of a card staying open for years without being used). And for store cards it seems like two years might even be safe (possible exception of store cards that are typically used frequently, e.g. Target).

Cards with annual fees are much more rarely closed due to inactivity, though CLDs could always happen.

Finally, do bear in mind that purchases you make to keep cards active should be for things that you’d buy even if you had no credit cards at all. A common piece of advice on credit discussion forums when this subject comes up is often to “just buy a pack of gum or a cup of coffee.” That makes sense only if you love gum or coffee. Otherwise that $3 cup of coffee is really just an annual fee.

Far better is an Amazon reload (if you use Amazon), groceries, gas, utility bills… etc. In short something you are certain you’d pay for even if you had only debit cards. There are tons of strategies out there that are easy to implement and which don’t involve buying stuff you don’t need. The exception is store cards: it’s very hard to buy stuff you absolutely need in a painless way with a Neiman Marcus card, for example.

Thanks creditGuyInDixie for the insightful comment.



89
Leave a Reply

avatar
 

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
SamL
SamL

I got a letter from BoA that my Merrill+ card hadn’t been used for 24 months, and would be closed on a certain date, unless I used it before then. (I did nothing and let it be closed.)

Keith
Keith

Recently got notified that one of my US Bank cards was going to be closed as I had not made a purchase in the last year. Just made a small purchase to keep it open.

Hope this helps.

arch
arch

A 99c Amazon gift card monthly will keep it active and be forgiven

Jonathan
Jonathan

American Express sent me an email telling me my card would be canceled.

“We noticed that you haven’t used your Card in a while, and unfortunately, your account is automatically scheduled to be cancelled. As with any change in account status, this closure could impact your credit score. If you’d like to keep your account open, simply make a purchase. It’s important to let you know that if no purchases are made, your account will be cancelled 35 days from the date of this email. If you’ve recently made a purchase, we thank you for your loyalty and encourage you to continue to enjoy using your Card and its benefits.”

SamL
SamL

How long was it unused?

Jonathan
Jonathan

It has been unused since at least July 2017. That’s as far as I can search for transactions online. I believe they may have sent me the cancelation notice because my card was due to expire in November.

chris
chris

I know this is credit, but Wells will inactivate and then close a debit card for the same lack of use.

Snorklez
Snorklez

I’ve never used my WF debit card (~4 years) and it remains perfectly valid

chris
chris

Crazy, I put a DD on mine regularly but haven’t used it and they’ve deactivated it twice now. Takes an ATM txn, branch visit or phone call to reactivate and the CSR explicitly said recurring DD’s don’t count toward activity.

Judy A Jones
Judy A Jones

Yep, Last week I had a letter that Barclays closed two of my Arrival accounts for not using them. These were cards that started as something else like Travelocity cards that had great value but other cards I hold were better so I did not use them. I was able to use the points on one of them to cash out for Amazon gift cards. Not a great redemption, but I did not have enough points for anything else.

Pat
Pat

Wells Fargo closes their cars due to inactivity but you can call once a year and not have the card cancelled.

Nathan Ponder
Nathan Ponder

Thanks for this post, it’s very helpful. I’ve got two cards (Capital One Quicksilver and PenFed Platinum Rewards) that are in the sock drawer and need to be exercised on a schedule. My plan is to put a $1.00 charge on them every 6 months and let that balance report on the next statement.

Here’s some additional info on PenFed’s policy regarding inactivity. It’s important to note that PenFed and most other credit unions require those $5-minimum member share accounts, inactivity on which can lead to closure, potentially jeopardizing your entire relationship with the CU to include your credit card.

https://www.depositaccounts.com/blog/2012/12/preventing-account-inactivity-status-review-of-penfeds-policy.html

arch
arch

Penfed has a $1 small balance forgiveness. I have been getting a $1 Amazon GC monthly for many months (years?). Free money and satisfies activity requirement. DoC has a dedicated post on this topic to find what other cards do this

LC
LC

keep in mind for capital one if you put $1 on it will actually waive the $1 with a small balance cancellation. it may still keep the card as “active” but it wont report as $”1″.

Naga
Naga

Capital One does close the account but as stated only when the card expires and years of inactivity, they close instead send a new renewed card. This happened to me for QuickSilver card.

Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes

Capital One closed my Spark Business card after 4 years of not using it (Business was closed) by sending an email:

“We’re writing to let you know that because your account ending in XXXX hasn’t been used in over four years, we closed it on July 9, 2019”

Billy
Billy

My Comenity/Meijer store card was canceled last month with no notice for inactivity. If they wanted me to continue to use the card they shouldn’t have changed the rewards program from one weekend a month of 15% off almost anything in the store to $25 gift card every $500 in purchases. Probably 2 years since I last used it.

Don B
Don B

My Meijer Credit Card perk are:
-Every gallon, every day 10 cents off at Meijer® Gas Stations
-Earn a $10 Reward for every $750 spent
-Enjoy exclusive savings events throughout the year

There are no bonus categories. I have almost no reason to use the card except for maybe for a Meijer credit card only sale.

Superman
Superman

Comenity closed my Overstock store card last month without notice after 2 years inactivity. Called within 10 days but told could not be reopened and must reapply. HUCA w/ same result.

George
George

I haven’t used my Elan Financial (services many local banks) card in almost 3 years. No shutdown, and sent me a new card after over 2 years of inactivity.

Kay Jewelers switched the issuer and sent me a new card, then the issuer closed it after a year of inactivity.

Haven’t used my Macy’s store card in almost 2 years, no shutdown yet.

Mark
Mark

My Wells Fargo Card was closed around the 10-11 month mark. Oldest account I had around 7 years. Just a DP.

creditGuyInDixie
creditGuyInDixie

Hi Mark. This is consistent with what we observed over at myFICO — that WellsF can sometimes close based on inactivity far earlier than other CC issuers. Can you confirm for us that you did in fact use the card at least once?

Cards that are never used (even once) get closed much earlier than a card that has been used.

JuicyJosh

Nearly 20 years ago I worked for Citi in their credit risk early warning dept. There were many queues for accounts that met various criteria for different types of review. One of those was inactivity. Anytime someone would call in to activate their card and they were in this queue, they would be routed to my griup. While having them on the line we would soft pull their CBR looking for derogatory info. Scores below 635 would get a credit line decrease to $300 above their balance or whatever the product minimum was. Scores below 585 would be closed. Unfortunately no details on what’s considered inactive.

Zack
Zack

DP: My Banana Republic store card was recently closed for inactivity (it’s definitely been several years since I used it).

Don
Don

Synchrony reduced the CL on my TJX card from ~10K to ~3k. It was closed a ~3 months after CL reduction since I still didn’t use it. I don’t know how long it was since I last used it, but I would guess about two years

Superman
Superman

Synchrony closed my Walmart store card after 1 year inactivity without notice. Called within 10 days but told could not be reopened and must reapply. HUCA w/ same result.

Back to Top ↑