Credit cards need to be very responsible about how they manage it. Excessive or less usage of the card can lead to blockage. Hence, one should use it in a fair amount to prevent it from being blocked. You should know how often should you use your credit card to maintain a perfect score and avoid penalties.
Experts over the years have recommended using credit cards within the responsible limits to keep it active. According to the data produced in 2019 in the US by the American Bankers Association, about 374 million people had opened their credit card accounts.
Each year the number of credit card users keeps increasing. While you may open a credit card account, you should also keep it in mind to use it in responsible limits to keep it active. Maintaining a healthy credit score isn’t hard if you keep making the payments in time.
If you have an active credit card with a good credit score, fewer problems will occur your way. As per experts, the exact limit of credit cards is 670-739. You always do not need to have a high credit card balance. People with a low balance and timely payments can have a good credit score too. This eventually may lead to an increase in credit card bill payment later on.
Why Does Credit Card Usage Matter?
There’s no denying that credit card usage can bring about several benefits. However, it is also essential to follow certain guidelines. Using a credit card too often can reduce the chances of inactivity.
Credit Utilization Ratio
Using credit cards can be helpful for maintaining the credit utilization ratio. The amount of usage by the amount of availability refers to credit utilization ratio.
If you tap too much credit that’s available and not pay, you’re going to expect a drop in your credit score soon. As a thumb rule, your aim should be to keep credit utilization ratio below 30%.
For instance, if you have 2 credit cards with $5K credit limit each. That means, you have a total $10K credit to tap. Let’s say, you have a combined $3K outstanding balance with those credit cards. With this total balance, you will use 30% of your total credit credit, which is at the max for good credit utilization level.
If you ever close any of your credit cards, this will cut your credit limit by half. Your ratio of credit utilization suddenly jumps to 60%, which will drop your credit score immediately.
Maintaining a credit history with regular credit card usage can help in the long run. It is a sign that you’ve been a good customer.
As a result. credit usage plays an important role in building credit history, that in turn, increases credit score. If a credit card company closes your credit account for inactivity, this will reduce your credit history. Thus, your credit score will be affected in a month when it gets reported to credit reporting agencies.
Depending on whether the credit card companies uses FICO score or Vantage score, closing your old credit card account may have tremendous impact on credit score. Most creditors use average age of accounts to determine your creditworthiness.
If you possess one credit card that’s with you for 8 years and another that’s 2 years old, then your average age of accounts is 5 years. Then, if you close the oldest card with 8 years, your average account age reduces to just 2 years.
How Often Should I Use The Credit Card To Keep It Open?
It is advised to use the credit card once in every six months to keep it open. If you have multiple credit cards, you can also schedule rotation of credit cards. Many people, however, are still scared of their accounts being closed. In such situations, it is better to use the card every three months.
You may also opt for using the card once every month to make small purchases. This keeps credit cards fully active with many credit card issuers. And, this helps reduce the risk of credit card closure.
Remember, every credit card issuer is different, you may want to personally check with your company. If you call them, they will tell you how they determine inactivity and what is their usage threshold after which they may close the credit card.
There may be a broad definition with respect to credit card activity. Just understand, what will keep your account open with the smallest of purchases or a small balance transfer.
How Long Will The Credit Card Be Active Without Any Usage?
Usually, it completely depends on the credit card provider. The bank after a certain period of inactivity of card can choose to make the card inactive after six months or even after a year. Some banks let the card be active for years even after a period of inactivity.
The table below represents the best information from CryptoandFire research on all credit card issuers website. There is no guarantee that will be up to date always. This is just a best effort information that I’m willing to share with you. Please take the information and then double check on the issuer’s website.
|Credit Card Issuer||How many months of inactivity after which credit card is closed|
|American Express||No explicit inactivity time frame|
|Barclays||3 months inactivity|
|Capital One||12 months inactivity|
|Chase||12 months inactivity|
|Discover||No explicit inactivity time frame|
|US Bank||No explicit inactivity time frame|
|Citi||24 months inactivity|
|Wells Fargo||6 months inactivity|
Credit card issuers change policies after serving notices to users any time, so it is best to check their website for the latest policy. If you want safety, you may want to make best effort to use credit card every 3 months.
Do I Have To Use A Credit Card For Every Purchase?
Not necessarily. But using credit cards can bring in a lot of benefits that will surely help you in the long run.
The concept of reward points in credit cards is bestowed to cardholders to earn more for every dollar they spend. Often reward points are given for gasoline, groceries and restaurants. After reaching the goal, the cardholders. Credit cardholders get endless reward options.
I like flexible reward programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, Amex Membership Rewards etc. So, my strategy is to get premium cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred to speed up my Ultimate Rewards accumulation.
Similarly, if you quickly accumulate Membership Rewards, I’ll go for the American Express Platinum card or Amex Gold card.
Reward credit cards are an important part of people’s wallet now. It is more of a necessity than a luxury. Keep switching your cards to the most rewarding card and don’t be loyal to a brand.
Credit card payments are a much safer mode of payment. Using credit cards to make payments can help to avoid the risk of fraudulent activities. If any fraudulent activity happens using debit cards, the money is deducted directly from your account.
However, when a credit card is used for any fraud, you won’t lose any money. All you will need to do is notify the company and not be charged for the transaction until the matter is solved.
Also, you can chargeback if the services were not met for which you were charged. Remember, you need to provide a lot of proofs on the purchase agreement, the terms of service and how they broke it. Once that is done, credit card issuer will take it up with the merchant and process the money back to you, if you win the credit card dispute resolution.
You will never get these protections if you pay with a debit card or cash. So, put your credit cards on the defense line to save you in tough times.
People with no or poor credit score can use credit cards to improve credit score. This however doesn’t happen with the debit card. Using a credit card frequently will reflect on your credit score, which isn’t the case with debit cards.
If you have an account balance, you need to make timely payments to avoid the risk of credit card inactivity. According to experts, you should use a credit card once every six months as per the plan. But if you want to be risk-free, you can consider using it once every three months. But be very careful about the payments.
Make sure whatever you charge on the card, you pay it back before the due date hits. This way, your responsibility and timely payments will reflect a positive image to the credit reporting agencies and they will increase your credit score gradually.
Can Closed Credit Accounts Affect Credit Score?
Having your account closed can be very disturbing, but it can also negatively impact your credit score. How the account closure will affect your account will completely depend on your pre-existing credit score.
The biggest negative impact of closed credit card accounts is on credit utilization. It may also lead to a reduced number of accounts. So, if you had less credit account and poor credit score, you may have to suffer huge losses owing to it.
Another impact of closed credit card accounts would be in a variety of credit. People with a long credit history would need to suffer less than people with a short credit history or less credit card accounts.
What Happens If A Credit Card Is Not Used For A Long Time?
Not using the credit card for a long time doesn’t usually have a negative impact on the credit score. But, it does have some other risks which might cause you irreplaceable damage. Here are some of them
The greatest risk of not using your credit card for a long time is account closure. The credit card company will not send any warning issue and may not close it immediately too. However, after the specified deadline, if the card is still inactive, the company will eventually close your account which will have a negative impact on credit score.
Overlooking fraudulent activities
Credit cards can often be used for fraud by malicious people. This eventually leads to the risk of transactions you aren’t aware of. Not using the card for a long time will lead you to overlook these mistakes.
Reducing Credit Limit
If you don’t use the credit card, some issuers may reduce credit limit saying that your inactivity becomes a high risk for them. If you still don’t use them at all after a long time, then expect them to close your credit card
Does A Credit Card Company Close The Account For Inactivity?
The credit card companies do not set any hard-and-fast rules related to the inactivity of the card. Even if you can’t keep your card active, you should keep the account active as it brings about so many benefits.
After a certain period of inactivity, the lender may choose to close your card. Striking a balance and using the card occasionally can help you avoid the risk of closure. The lender may even send you a notice regarding the closure, so make sure to read every mail that is sent by your credit card company.
When you utilize the credit card, they expect you to have balances and earn interest on your balance. Similarly, when you use it at a merchant place, they collect charges from the merchant and earn money. This way, they will earn from both if there is continuous usage of credit cards. So, there is no earning potential for them when you stop using credit cards. As a result, they end up closing inactive credit cards for a long time.
Do Unused Credit Cards Decrease Your Credit Score?
Unused credit cards directly do not have an impact on the credit score. Not using your card can often keep your score neutral. However, if the period of inactivity stretches, it does make you prone to account closure which leads to a direct negative impact on credit score. Account closure leads to disrupted fall of credit score.
These 5 primary factors make up the credit score determine your credit score calculation. It’s better to understand them and go for it.
Credit utilization ratio makes up about 30% of your credit score. And, average age of accounts or credit history determines 15% of your credit score.
Should You Keep Your Credit Cards Open With 0 Balance Forever?
You may have an idea to close your card because of no usage and maintaining zero balance. However, it is advisable to not close the credit account. A zero balance card is beneficial for the utilization ratio. 0 credit card balance has a positive impact on credit score indicating accurate zero balance-to-limit ratio. Low utilization ratio is better for your credit score.
If the card has an annual fee, try to downgrade to a no annual fee card rather than closing it. Especially, never close your oldest cards.
How Often Should You Use Your Credit Card?
One question that is always in people’s mind is how often should you use your credit card. As per the general rule, you should use your card once every six months. But you can also use it once every three months. However, keeping your card active doesn’t mean to set out on a spree. You should use the card frequently within a specified amount so that you can easily make payments and avoid interests and late charges.
Compared to bigger charges, the smaller ones will have a crucial role in keeping the card active. Scheduling a subscription with any online streaming platform can be a great idea to stay active. However, make sure to keep track of the purchases you make using the card. If you use credit cards to make bills, you should keep a check on the processing fee.
Be very careful about your credit card usage because no issuer will ever send a warning. They will directly send a notice when the account is closed. You may prioritize the cards and keep them in rotation to avoid the risk of closure.
Best Ways To Maintain Credit Card In Active Stage
The spend needed to maintain a credit card is only minimal with a few dollars. Even if you never want to put every purchase on your card, you should have a strategy to keep them active to build credit score.
There are a few things you can target to keep your account from getting closed by your card issuer.
1. Sprinkle small purchases
Just use your card for small occasional purchase and put it back it in the sock drawer. May be easy to just take it for one trip to grocery store every 3 months. Or, take it to gas station to fill gas. Maybe even for lunch or dining out once.
Just a small dollar purchase on the card will do to keep it active. You don’t have to make large purchases and get into debt. You don’t have to make expensive purchases to maintain an active account. The credit card issuer doesn’t care how much you charge as long as you’re charging something.
2. Set up recurring charge
It is even easier if you can charge your card and add it to an automatic recurring payment every month. This is like a set it and forget method. Much more easier than making manual small purchases. Even here, the purchases need not be big. Any purchase will count.
The best providers to set up recurring charges will be your internet provider like AT&T or Xfinity, utility provider like PG&E or phone service provider like AT&T or Sprint or T-Mobile or Verizon. Just take advantage of the autopay feature and forget your card.
This will help you keep the card active with minimum effort from your side. If you choose this path, make sure to continuously monitor your statements for excessive charges. Also, remember to pay off credit card statement balance in full every month before the due date.
3. Default Payment Card In E-Commerce Sites
If you end up buying a lot of things from e-commerce sites or online shopping, then making this card the default payment method ensures continuous activity. This way, the burden is not on you to keep carrying the credit card around.
When everything is available to you at one click and reaches you in 2 days, it is difficult to not buy anything in 3 months. So, having your card set as default payment will help you keep the account active without much effort.
We all know that it is absolutely important to utilize credit in a responsible manner. But, you also need to concentrate on using your card enough to keep the account active.
If you make small purchases at regular intervals of time, you should be able to keep it active and improve credit utilization and credit history. This, in turn, helps you get an excellent credit score in the end.
I am a data analyst by profession who loves to crunch numbers at daytime and come home wondering how my passive income numbers for the day look like. I believe in being rich rather than looking rich. Follow me for Cryptocurrency, FIRE, Personal Finance, Credit Cards and Digital Nomad updates