Deciding Whether or not to Cancel Your Unused Credit Cards

credit cardMost people who have credit cards don’t have any problems using them (which is to say, they use them all too frequently). But if you happen to have some modicum of self-control, or you’ve gotten in trouble with credit cards before and you’re making a concerted effort to clean up your credit report, pay down debt, and develop responsible spending habits, you might have one or two (or several) unused cards gathering dust in a locked box in your home, just waiting around for an emergency…or a moment of weakness. And you may be wondering whether or not you really need that kind of temptation hanging around the house. Sure, it’s nice to know that you could call upon unused credit cards to bail you out in the event of car trouble, a death in the family, or unexpected medical bills. But you might also use the presence of these cards to justify a spending spree when your favorite shop has its annual sale. So should you cancel unused cards? Here are just a few things to consider.

First and foremost, you need to be realistic about your level of self-control. If you’ve had problems with over-spending on credit in the past, then you might not want to face the temptation that credit cards invariable present. If you’ve been able to cut down on credit card spending, pay off former debts, and get your credit report in order, don’t dangle the carrot of additional credit that could derail your progress on the financial front. Simply cancel your accounts and shred the cards so you’ll never have to find out how strong (or weak) your willpower actually is.

On the other hand, if you’ve decided that your days of over-spending are behind you and your troubles with creditors are a thing of the past (i.e. you’ve learned your lesson the hard way), it couldn’t hurt to have that extra security on hand just in case of an emergency that requires you to pony up some quick cash. Suppose you’re injured in an accident. Your medical bills could be piling up while you wait for a payout from insurance, or worse, a settlement from a lawsuit. Since you don’t want your bills to end up in collections and mess up your credit along the way, it’s not a bad idea to have some means of paying them off while you wait for your ship to come in.

Of course, there is one other consideration that should be on your mind in this day and age considering how prevalent it has become: identity theft. When you have open credit accounts just lying around, unused, chances are you’re not bothering to check them for activity. And this could make you a target for identity theft. By the time you’ve realized that charges are racking up, the thieves could have maxed out your cards, leaving you holding the bag for thousands of dollars in debt. Although you can likely clear up the problem with your creditor, you’ll still have to go through the hassle of dealing with it. If you cancel your unused accounts, however, it should alleviate the threat of theft or at least give you plausible deniability in the matter.

Most adults really only need one or two credit cards, and you can find the best rates and deals on a site like As for the rest, it’s probably best to cancel any unused cards. You’ll avoid the temptation they pose and lower your risk for identity theft. And if you should need some extra cash, you’ll be in a better position to borrow since keeping your credit report clean is a lot easier when you don’t have all that credit at your disposal.

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