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I have some credit cards sitting around and I understand that closing credit card accounts hurt your credit score. Thus, I was thinking of charging $0.01/month to those cards and setting up automatic monthly payments so it'll look like I pay my balances in full as opposed to having no balances at all. Will this improve my credit?
NO! The fact that one pays off their balance every month does NOT mean ones score is any better then anybody who pays only part of their score. This is a myth. Why, look at this way, you charge every month and pay it in full, what is the credit card company reporting, only that you made your payment on time and what your balance was at the time of the statement. They do not report that you pay in full. On paper this looks like you always carry a balance and affects you debt utilization ratio. It never shows a $0 balance. If you want them to report a $0 balance owed, then when you pay it off, do not use the card for a few months. Those unused cards show you have a certain amount of available credit, closing them will reduce your credit lines and raise you debt to credit limit ratio which is bad for ones score. Check the resource link to see what FICO has to say. Hope this helps answer your question.
I have to disagree with the other poster. According to FICO, there really is never any good reason to close an account -- especially if you have a good long history of payment. There is another way that closing an account can hurt your score: Once it's paid off, that account will be on your credit report for no more than 10 years. "An account that is open with a good history can stay on forever -- it could stay on for 20 years. The bureaus will automatically remove (a closed account) in 10 years, but that could be removed sooner if that credit card issuer decides to remove it. Once it's closed and paid off, that account then becomes inactive, and it's not uncommon for the credit card issuer after a few years or even sooner to just delete that completely, just purge it from their records. In the short run, you maintain that history. But once that comes off your credit report, you lose that good history. One of those five areas that the score considers looks at how long you've had credit -- that accounts for about 15 percent of the score. That may or may not impact your score a lot depending on your other accounts. If you've only got a few accounts, that could impact it heavily; if you've got a lot of credit for a long period of time, that will probably not impact it by much, if at all."
Stupid idea. Instead rotate using those cards every couple months and pay them in full. This will keep them active. Also, if you are not carrying balances on other credit cards, closing unused/unwanted credit card accounts won't really hurt your score. Having a stack of unused credit cards sitting in your sock drawer is just asking for problems with fraud and new-jersey theft. I recommend that you keep the two oldest major credit cards that do not charge annual fees. If you have a third account with better interest/limit/rewards, keep it as well. Only keep store and gas charge cards if you have some special reason and actually use them. Close the rest of your credit cards via letter and request written confirmation that the account is closed and 0 balance.