Paying off your credit card might seem like a fairly straightforward process — and it can be — but before you dial that number on the back to cancel a credit card, brief yourself on a few important points of the cancellation process.

What to Consider Before You Cancel a Credit Card

People have a variety of good reasons for canceling credit cards. But if you’re canceling them just to clear out your wallet a little, keep in mind the following advice: “Avoid canceling credit cards that have at least two years of good payment history,” says financial author Harrine Freeman. “Closing this account removes the payment history when calculating your credit score, which could lower your credit utilization and may lower your credit score.”

Instead of canceling… consider a “product change,” says Sebastian Fung, co-founder of the financial website AskSebby. A product change means to downgrade or upgrade the card you have. “By doing a product change, they can make an unused card useful again without damaging their credit history.”

Also, consider canceling cards with a high annual fee. When you cancel, you may be able to get a full or partial refund of the annual fee. Ask the customer service representative when you call to cancel, Freeman says.

Steps to Take When You Cancel a Credit Card

Make sure to pay off your balance first. Canceling your card doesn’t erase any outstanding balances, accrued interest or fees, so be sure to take care of your debt first. If you close it before you have paid off your balance, you will need to continue making payments.

Use any remaining rewards prior to canceling your card. If you don’t want to miss out on airline or other travel rewards, accrued points or cash back rewards, be sure to cash in on those prior to canceling.

Notify other cardholders that you intend to close the account. If your spouse or other family members are authorized users on your account, be sure to let them know that you plan to close or cancel the card.

Contact customer service. Call your credit card company’s customer service department by phone using the number listed on the back of your card. First confirm that your balance is zero, then “provide your name as listed on the account, your account number and the effective date of cancellation,” says Freeman. “Request a confirmation letter.”

Destroy your card. Shred or cut up your card before you throw it away, which is always a good security practice.

Get a copy of your credit report. Approximately one month after you have canceled your card, you can access your updated credit report to confirm that the canceled card information is reflected accurately.

Your account will remain on your credit report. Know that even though your account is closed, it will still remain on your credit report, says Freeman. “An account in good standing remains on your credit report for up to 10 years, while an account that has past delinquencies remains on your credit report from the first date of delinquency up to seven years.”

Once a credit card is canceled, know that you won’t be able to reopen it.

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