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I'm going to stop using my Visa and apply for an AMEX.

I want the Visa account to remain open to keep my revolving credit usage % low. While I understand opening a new card will temporarily reduce my score, it will pay off in the long run.

If I don't use the Visa for a long enough period will they close my account?

Edit: This is not because I'm concerned that I'm using the card and paying in full, rather I will not be using the card at all.

  • I would recommend have small automatic payments set up on your Visa to keep it active. For example, my iTunes account is on my Visa and it gets charged 99 cents every so often to keep it open. – Michael Mar 8 '17 at 19:31
  • Similar to @MichaelC.'s suggestion, I just have a single small recurring monthly charge on one card just to make sure it's used every month. Make sure autopay is on and "set it and forget it." – Kevin Mar 8 '17 at 20:03
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    @MattThrower I don't think this is a precise duplicate of that question, because that question is asking about interest, while this question is asking about activity. It's a subtle difference, but reasonable to keep both questions in my opinion. – NL - Apologize to Monica Mar 9 '17 at 15:55
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    American Express is not universally accepted the way Visa is, so it's likely that you will end up still having to use the Visa at some point. – 200_success Mar 9 '17 at 18:46
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Please realize that your issuer can close the account for any number of reasons.

Inactivity is one, as having a credit line open costs them money and if you never charge anything, the company doesn't get any transaction fees from vendors nor does the company get to charge you any interest. An occasional charge is likely to keep your card from being closed automatically, but it is not a guarantee.

Another reason they may close the account is that you have other bad marks show up on your credit score, or their criteria for offering you the card change so you no longer match their target demographic.

I have a credit card issued by my credit union that I have not used for a couple of years. They will not close the card account because my other accounts are still very profitable for them. If I were not an otherwise profitable customer, I wouldn't be surprised if they closed my credit card account.

If you are serious about keeping the account open, you should probably have more than a trivial amount of usage.

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    How does having it open cost them money? – Mason Wheeler Mar 8 '17 at 21:12
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    @MasonWheeler replacement cards, paper statements, reporting to credit bureaus, regulatory reporting, lots of inactive users would also cause the balance sheet to look less attractive. I'm not even scratching the surface of tangible and intangible costs of having one or more open credit lines with users that are not bringing in revenue. – NL - Apologize to Monica Mar 8 '17 at 21:15
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    @MasonWheeler Operating costs. On the margin your account accounts for some portion of their overall operating budget, while this may be small it's still larger than 0. If you're making them $0 through transaction fees and/or finance charges, you're technically costing them money – Fueled By Coffee Mar 8 '17 at 21:16
  • @NathanL I don't get any paper statements from any of my banks. Replacement cards is only every 8 years if you don't use it. Everything else costs essentially $0 for every incremental user after the first because it is all software. I doubt the yearly cost of keeping an unused account like that exceeds the probability that a customer will start using the card again and start making money. – Philip Mar 9 '17 at 2:52
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    To everyone asking why an Open, Inactive account costs the company money: It is a liability. That card can be hacked, cloned, and it may generate chargebacks and all sorts of trouble. So it impacts the operational risk of the company. If it is a bank adhering to the basel accords, that means setting money aside to compensate that risk. Sometimes it is not just profit/cost comparison as for a small business. it is WAY more complex. – Mindwin Mar 9 '17 at 13:51
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There is no universal answer here. Some card issuers will. Some that will close the account will warn you first. For my "sock drawer" cards I'll try to take each out semi-annually to make a single transaction, then put it back in the drawer.

I've heard you should charge something quarterly, I've never had one closed with semi-annual charges.

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    I have a card I haven't used in 10 years, they still send a new card each time it expires. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 8 '17 at 19:51
  • Same here. Bank of America for me... – Aaron D. Marasco Mar 8 '17 at 23:35
  • Same experience with Bank of America, Chase, and AMEX cards. Based on the varied experiences here, I am starting to think that perhaps overall credit score impacts a company's desire to retain or cancel an inactive account. – Surest Texas Mar 11 '17 at 15:54
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The answer is maybe. I had a Chase card without a purchase in over 4 years get canceled out of the blue, without so much as a notification telling me it was at risk for cancelation. They told me they typically close accounts after 24 months of inactivity (not including card fees) but let mine go for longer because I have several other credit cards, savings and checking accounts with them. I would recommend spending at least once per year on the card.

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Assuming the question is "will they close it for inactivity (alone)".. the answer is "Nope"

... unequivocally.

Update: < My answer is geared to credit Cards issues by companies that deal in credit, not merchandise (i.e. store cards, retailer cards, etc). Retailers (like Amazon, etc), want to sell goods and are in the credit card business to generate sales. Banks and credit companies (about whom I am referring) make their money primarily on interest and secondarily on service charges (either point of use charged to the vendor that accepts payment, or fees charged to the user).>

The only major issuer I will say that it might be possible is Discover, because I never kept a Discover card. I also don't keep department store cards, which might possibly do this; but I do doubt it in either of those cases too. My answer is based on Having 2 AMEX cards (Optima and Blue) and multiple other Visa/MC's that I NEVER use... and most of these I have not for over 10+ years.

Since I am also presuming that you are also not talking about an account that charges a yearly or other maintenance fee..

Why would they keep the account open with the overhead (statements and other mailings,etc)?

Because you MIGHT use it. You MIGHT not be able to pay it off each month. Because you MIGHT end up paying thousands in interest over many years. The pennies they pay for maintaining your account and sending you new cards with chip technology, etc.. are all worth the gamble of getting recouped from you! This is why sales people waste their time with lots of people who will not buy their product, even though it costs them time and money to prospect.. because they MIGHT buy.

Naturally, there are a multitude of reasons for canceling a card; but inactivity is not one. I have no less than 10+ "inactive" cards, one that has a balance, and two I use "infrequently". I really would not mind if they closed all those accounts.. but they won't ;)

So enjoy your AMEX knowing that your Visa will be there when you need/want it.. The bank that issues your Visa is banking on it! (presuming you don't foul up financially)

Cheers!

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    I have had both an Amazon visa issued through chase and a Paypal Master card threaten to close my account for non usage. These were Zero balance cards I hadn't used in a year or two. Many Many card issuers will close your account for non usage. – 8bitwide Mar 8 '17 at 22:37
  • @8bitwide I'm sure there is more to the story... and I suppose I could add online credit schema's to my list of "untrieds" since I only deal with actual brick and mortar banks whose business it is to provide credit (versus a retailer like amazon or paypal who just wants sales). I would say they are more similar to departement store cards (even if Visa is the engine running their credit). – Surest Texas Mar 8 '17 at 22:41
  • So, yes, I can see a retailer like Amazon closing an accout for that reason. However, I do not believe that is the OP's situation. My understanding is that he is dealing with companies who deal primarily in credit, not merchandise/ – Surest Texas Mar 8 '17 at 22:42
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    All true, but "around here" anyway, when you apply for a loan the bank considers your potential indebtedness to be the sum of the limits of all the cards you have, whether you use them or not, because you might use them. Your credit-worthiness is higher if you cancel cards that you are never going to use. Having 10+ inactive cards seems not just pointless to me, but risky. If any (but not all) were stolen, would you even notice before the bill arrived? – mickeyf_supports_Monica Mar 9 '17 at 3:26
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    I would caution against absolutes when your very next sentence rolls back your certainty. – quid Mar 9 '17 at 22:02
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The workaround solution is to simply avoid having an exactly zero balance on your account. Thus for inactive credit cards that I want to keep around for emergency use, I always leave a small positive balance on the card.

The credit card company reserves the right to cancel my card at any time, but a positive balance would force them to send me a check for the privilege of doing so. A positive balance avoids making the account appear inactive and makes it cheaper for them to simply leave the account open.

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