From buying a car to renting your first apartment, your credit history can play an important role in your life. And like with many important things in life — video games and most sports — you want to have a high score. In order to work up to having a higher credit score, you typically need to start small. Getting a credit card can be the place to start. And while we can’t help improve your gaming skills, we can help with the whole credit card thing.

Discover it® Chrome Student Card

Get cash back on gas and restaurants with Discover it® Chrome.

A valuable way to increase your credit score and build your credit is to responsibly handle a credit card, according to NerdWallet. And one way to show responsible card use is to pay your full balance on time every month. However, less clear to many cardholders is what happens if, instead of paying a monthly balance down to zero, you just never put anything on the card at all. People may think that if you don’t touch your card, you won’t accumulate any debt and therefore can keep your credit utilization low. And low credit card utilization means a better credit score, right?

Well, unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. While every person has to decide how to best use their credit card based on individual needs, not using your credit card at all can have some consequences. And being aware of exactly what happens when you never use your credit card can help you decide what to do with a card that gets infrequent usage.

Here’s what could happen:

Your Card Could Be Canceled

One thing to note is that credit card companies may close your account if you never use your card, says NerdWallet. Closing a credit card account may have a negative impact on your credit score even if you didn’t intend to have it closed, especially if this is the card you’ve had the longest. Having it closed due to inactivity could cause a dip in your credit. Plus, having your credit card canceled will take away the option of having it for emergencies and for things like hotel and car rentals, which often require a credit card.

The bottom line: if you want to have access to your card when you need it, not using it could take away that option. Some experts — like ThePointsGuy.com — recommend using your card at least once a year to prevent it from being closed due to inactivity.

Your Credit Score Could Become Stagnant

Much like how your leg muscles may feel a little weaker when you skip squats at the gym, your credit score could suffer from lack of usage. Not using your credit card at all — while most likely won’t negatively affect your score as long as it isn’t closed — probably isn’t going to move the meter in a positive direction. When scoring, companies are looking for you to be able to responsibly use your line of credit. Seeing the balance go up — and be paid off on time — will generally help your score rise more (or at least more quickly) than no activity at all.

You May Miss Fraudulent Charges on Your Card

Your credit card statement can be an important tool in helping you keep your finances on track, and it’s probably a good idea to read it carefully every month. But if you haven’t used the card during that payment cycle, it can be tempting to just assume everything is fine and not look at your statement. That may leave you vulnerable to overlooking any fraudulent charges that could go unseen for weeks or months. Not using your card at all, and thereby ignoring your statement, means that something could slip by unnoticed, which may hurt your credit in the long run.

So, Should You Cancel a Card You Don’t Use Often?

That depends. It’s important to consider your credit history, available credit and big picture financial issues, according to Experian. For example, are you being charged a hefty annual fee. For some, the best option might be to use their idle card for small purchases every month and pay the balance in full. This helps build up your payment history and credit score while preventing any dips caused by closing an account.

However, if you find you aren’t using a particular card very often, it may be worth seeing if there is a rewards program better suited to your needs. With some card companies — like Discover — you can switch to a rewards program that will give you more incentive to use your card without changing your card number or closing the account. This may be a good compromise to help improve your credit score while also getting the rewards that will benefit you the most.

Discover it® Chrome Student Card

Sponsored

Get Cash Back on Gas and Restaurants with Discover it® Chrome.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.