What happens if you don’t use your credit card for long stretches of time?

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.

Your Card Could Be Canceled

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 score. 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 not likely to negatively impact your credit score, unless the card is cancelled or closed — probably isn’t going to move the meter in a positive direction.

You May Miss Fraudulent Charges on Your Card

If you haven’t used a card in a given month, it can be tempting to just assume everything is fine and not look at your statement. But that may leave you vulnerable to overlooking any fraudulent charges that could go unseen for weeks or months. It might be a good idea to online or on the app for the card to make sure nothing looks suspicious.

Not using your card at all could hurt your credit in the long run if you’re not aware of unauthorized charges.

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.

It’s also possible that you have just too many cards to manage, and canceling one or two could help you organize your overall finances. Sometimes the simplicity of having only one or two cards is worth it, as long as you’re aware of the potential ramifications.

Originally published January 25, 2017.

Updated May 22, 2019.

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