In most cases, canceling a credit card account won't boost your credit profile. In fact, ending a credit card can even hurt your credit score. It's typically best to keep a credit card account open, even if you have just shacked up with your partner and feel you can do without the additional credit facility.
Using a big chunk of your available credit is bad for your credit score. You should try to use around 30 percent to 35 percent or less of your available credit, according to Bankrate.com. This figure is known as your "credit-utilization ratio." Closing a credit card account can increase your ratio, because you've removed some available credit. You can calculate your credit-utilization ratio by dividing the amount of your debt by your available credit and multiplying that figure by 100. For example, if you have three cards that each have a credit limit of $5,000 and owe $6,000 on them cumulatively, your credit-utilization ratio is 40 percent. If you close one of these cards, your credit-utilization ratio will rise to 60 percent.
Length of Credit
Your FICO score is partly based on the length of your credit history. A longer credit history will generally increase your FICO score, as long as you've managed your accounts responsibly. Closing your oldest credit card will reduce the length of your credit history on open accounts. This could hit your credit score. According to the MyFICO.com, the length of your credit history accounts for 15 percent of your FICO score.
Types of Credit
The mix of credit lines you have open accounts for 10 percent of your credit score, according to MyFICO.com. The more types of credit you have available to you the better, but not all credit is viewed equally. Revolving balance debt such as credit and retail cards typically carry more weight than installment debt such as mortgages, student loans and auto loans, according to Barry Paperno, consumer operations manager for MyFICO.com. If you have several credit card accounts, you can feel fairly confident that closing one of them won't change your score too much, but you might choose to keep them open if you only have one or two accounts.
Cancelling a credit card won't get rid of adverse information from your credit file. Details of late payments and defaults will remain on your credit file for seven years, regardless of whether an account remains open or not. It's usually better to keep a credit card account open. If you don't want to use it, cut up your card.
Michael Roennevig has been a journalist since 2003. He has written on politics, the arts, travel and society for publications such as "The Big Issue" and "Which?" Roennevig holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the Surrey Institute and a postgraduate diploma from the National Council for the Training of Journalists at City College, Brighton.