Published on August 22nd, 2019 | by Chuck97
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.
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)
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)
- 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.
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.
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 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 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)
One report has PenFed closing a card after 24 months of inactivity. They did give notice 6 months in advance. (1)
- 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.
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)
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.