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I have a bunch of credit cards I've opened for their preliminary cash payout when you spend X dollars in Y months. I don't plan on using them after that, but will keep them to increase my total credit so my credit utilization is low.

My question is, if I cease to use the card ($0 balance for an extended period of time) will the credit limit still count towards my total credit availability?

I know it is possible the credit card company may cancel my card, so this question is assuming it is kept open.

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Yes. If the account is open, the credit remains available to you by definition. Whether or not you utilize the credit, or whether you use it regularly, doesn't pertain to your question. Put another way, suppose you had a catastrophic emergency and had to use these lines of credit. The fact that you are able to do this means the credit is available to use.

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Utilization is factored in both the overall sense and on a per trade line basis. By itself, the card looks good - your utilization is at 0%. The limit is also factored into your overall utilization. Both play a part in credit score calculation.

For example, if you have two cards with $1000 limits, and have two scenarios:

  • card A at 1000/1000, card B at 0/1000
  • card A at 500/1000, card B at 500/1000

In both cases, you have 50% overall utilization, but in one case you have 100% on one card. Exactly how this affects your score is hard to guess and depends on the scoring model.

Keeping the card won't hurt you, other than making your life slightly more complicated. Closing it may not hurt you, depending on whether closing it significantly increases your overall utilization.

I myself don't really chase signup bonuses, but from my understanding, the "pros" aren't afraid to close cards. You don't need every possible point on your score to have great credit.

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Yes, it applies. Now how it applies is another question. The short answer is those who know won't tell us. It is believed that such an account will hurt -- that part of your credit score accounts for all that you can borrow given open accounts.

  • "It is believed" is potentially misleading. Some people certainly believe this, but newer scoring models seem to not penalize for excessive available credit. Anecdotally, just ask the people with near perfect scores and 6-7 digits of cumulative credit limit. – Rakurai Jul 24 '17 at 15:05

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