Here are the steps you need to take in order to safely close your credit card account and cancel a credit card. Learn more about the process in our guide below.
How to cancel a credit card in 7 easy steps
1. Pay the outstanding balance
Avoid closing a credit card with a balance. If you try to close an account with an outstanding balance, the bank could increase the interest rate or demand full and immediate payment. If you plan on transferring your balance to a new card, wait until the transfer has gone through before your close the card.
2. Transfer any reward points
If your card offers rewards, redeem or transfer them to another eligible account before you request to cancel the card. Once you close the account, all unclaimed points are forfeited. Depending on the type of rewards program, you may even be able to use your points to pay off the remaining balance on your card.
3. Cancel direct debits
To prevent reactivating your card, cancel all existing direct debits linked to your credit card. Even if you’ve requested for an account to be closed, a direct debit could reactivate a canceled card. You also don’t want to be penalized if an automatic bill payment fails to go through because your card is cancelled.
4. Cancel your credit card
Once you’re ready to cancel your card, the provider will likely require you to call them directly. Most providers want to talk to you to offer lower APR or annual fees to get you to stay with them. Once you cancel, make a record of the date, time, and name of the representative you speak with.
While becoming less and less common, some providers require that you send a written request to cancel your credit card. Ask for the address over the phone, and include your credit card number and account number in the letter. You should receive a letter confirming the closure of the account.
5. Check for future statements
Try to log into your account or go through your credit card statements following your request to make sure that the card is definitely canceled.
You should receive a cancellation confirmation by mail or email. If you don’t, follow up with your lender using details from your first phone call.
7. Destroy your credit card
While you may be tempted to cut up your credit card as soon as you get off the phone, it’s best to wait until you’ve received confirmation that your account has been closed, just in case there was an error in the process and you still need to reference the card number.
When you are ready to destroy your card, cut the card into tiny pieces to make it impossible for anyone to piece it back together. You can even discard the pieces at different times or places. Remember to destroy not only your card, but also all cards given to any authorized users on your account.
Can you cancel a credit card online?
In general, no. In order to cancel your credit card you’ll likely have to talk to a bank representative over the phone at some point in the process. However, you might be able to at least get started online by sending a secured message through your online account login:
Log in to your online banking account.
Click Send a Secure Message. You may find this option in your Message or Notifications centre.
Send a message to the customer service department. Include your credit card number and a brief message stating that you want to close your account.
A customer service representative will likely contact you by phone to finish the process and close out your account.
Contact numbers to cancel a credit card over the phone
You can cancel your credit card by phoning your provider directly. Below we’ve listed the phone numbers of some of the most popular credit card providers in Canada. You can also try calling the number on the back of your credit card.
What if I get offered a better interest rate, lower fees or other perks?
If you’re simply interested in a lower APR or annual fee, tell the bank representatives. You may be surprised at what they’ll give you. If the offered perks don’t solve your issues with the card and you still want to cancel, stick to “no.” You may need to assert your decision several times before the bank representative processes your request. Knowing beforehand what your reasons are for closing the account and whether you’re open to changing your mind will help you avoid making a decision you’ll regret later.
How to cancel a credit card without calling
If your credit card provider has physical branch locations, you can visit a branch and attempt to cancel the card in person. Still, some banks may not offer in-person card cancellation services, but will rather direct you to call their credit card department.
Unfortunately, most credit card issuers don’t allow you to cancel a credit card online or through their mobile app.
As a general rule, banks want to talk to you in person so they can try to persuade you to keep your credit card or switch to another one of their products. A representative may attempt to persuade you to stay on by offering you enticing perks. You may even be transferred to the bank’s customer retention division, where yet another representative will try to convince you to keep your credit card account open. So if you’re dead set on canceling the cards, be ready to stand your ground.
Can I cancel my credit card simply by not using it, letting it expire or cutting it up?
No. According to the Canadian government, you’re responsible for any outstanding balance left on the account even if you don’t have access to your card anymore or fail to use it. Beware of any consequences you may face from not using your card such as inactivity fees or automatic account closure. Check your cardholder agreement or phone your card issuer’s customer service to learn which policies may apply to you.
What to do before you cancel a credit card
Here are a couple other things to consider before closing your account:
Note the annual fee. Check when your annual fee is charged and if it will affect your final payment.
Pay off everything you owe. If you have a balance on your card, it means you still owe money to your provider. Clear your balance to close your card. A balance transfer credit card can help you move the balance off of the original card so that you can close it.
See if you can negotiate better terms. Consider why you’re closing your card, and think about negotiating with your card issuer to get a better deal. Don’t want to pay an annual fee or want a lower interest rate? Just ask, and your issuer might oblige.
Consider your credit. Closing your account can decrease your total credit, and your credit utilization ratio may go up. Also, positive payment history you’ve accrued with your card won’t factor as heavily once you close your card. As a result of these factors, your credit score may decrease. Keep this in mind if you’ll be applying for another credit product in the near future.
Update your credit card for relevant services. You may be using your card as a payment method for services that charge you regularly. To avoid interruptions in service, add a different card.
How else will canceling my credit cards affect my credit?
Canceling your credit card can be good if you’re looking to control your spending and get a better grip on your budget. But before you make that move, consider how it can affect your credit.
Just because you cancel a credit card, your payment information doesn’t disappear from your credit report. That can be both good news and bad. If you’ve made late payments or have any other negative information on your credit card, that data stays on your credit report for 6 years. If you’re closing an account with positive account history, positive credit data stays on your credit report for 10 years from when the account is closed. This allows good credit information to stay longer than negative, giving you the change to improve your financial situation.
Credit utilization ratio
Another way that closing your credit card can affect your credit score is changing your balance-to-limit ratio or credit utilization ratio. Credit bureaus are interested in your total credit available and how much of that you’re using. A low ratio is a strong indicator of a good credit risk.
So closing a credit card with a high spending limit and a zero balance could hurt your credit score, especially if you have high balances in other cards or loans. If you want to cancel your card because of an annual fee, offset the ratio by either requesting a credit limit increase on another card or paying off balances on other cards.
Age of your credit card
When it comes to your credit cards, age matters. The amount of time your credit card has been open affects your credit score, and is beneficial if you have a positive credit history. So closing that credit card you’ve had since college can actually hurt your score if you have a positive payment history. If you just submitted your application for a new credit card, you might be able to cancel your card application before you’re approved.
Does cancelling a credit card always have an impact on credit scores?
Getting rid of a credit card doesn’t always have an impact on your credit score. For example, if you’ve just got a new credit card and then closed the old one (or vice versa), it may not change your overall score.
It’s also important to keep in mind that your credit score can fluctuate as more details are added to your credit file. So even if cancelling a credit card does affect your credit score in the short term, how you manage your accounts over time will play a greater role in determining your score in the future.
Should you cancel your credit card?
Deciding whether or not you should cancel your credit card will depend on you personal financial situation and spending habits. We’ve outlined some of the reasons below that you should consider to help you decide if cancelling your credit card is the right move for you.
3 reasons it might be a good idea to cancel a credit card
If it gets rid of a high credit limit. Having access to a lot of credit may hurt your chances of being approved for other loans since there is bigger risk to lenders that you could max out your credit limit and be unable to repay your balances. By cancelling your credit card, you’ll reduce this risk, which could also improve your chances of getting approved with other lenders.
If it shows you’ve settled outstanding payments. Before you can close a credit card account, you’ll need to make sure the balance is cleared. So, if you have previously had late payments or defaults recorded on this account, closing it could show you’re taking control of your debts.
If it helps you make other payments on time. Once you’ve closed your credit card account, you’ll have one less bill to think about each month. If this makes it easier to deal with other accounts, it could improve your payment history and your credit score.
3 reasons it might NOT be a good idea to cancel a credit card
If you have a lot of recent applications. Applying for a lot of credit cards – or other credit accounts like loans – over a few months increases the level of risk for your existing and potential lenders. It may suggest that you’re jumping from one credit card to another in order to take advantage of introductory offers. While there’s not technically anything wrong with that, credit card providers do frown on this type of behaviour.
If it was your only credit account. Cancelling a credit card when you don’t have any other loans or credit accounts limits the amount of information you’ll have on your credit file. That means your credit score could drop or remain unchanged until you apply for a new card.
It will impact your credit score. If you’re not struggling with repayments, and you’re comfortable managing a credit card responsibly, than you might benefit more from just keeping the account open. Even if you don’t plan on using the card, your credit utilization ratio –and consequently your credit score – will benefit from having unused room on your credit card.
Alternatives to cancelling a credit card
If you’ve decided you don’t want to close your credit card account after all, maybe because your needs have changed or you simply don’t want to use the card anymore, than consider these other options instead:
Put the card away. Keep the card in a safe place that’s out of reach for everyday purchases. That can be a good way to keep the account open while not having the temptation to build up a balance. Just make sure you remember to pay down any remaining balance on the card. Also see about switching to a card with no annual fee, so you’re not paying for perks and features that you’re not using. You should also make sure you won’t be charged any account inactivity fees.
Switch to a different type of credit card. Most card providers offer a suite of credit cards with different features. If your credit card needs or financial priorities have changed, you may may be able to ask your card provider to simply switch to a different type of card with perks that are more in line with your needs.
Manage your debt with another method. While cancelling your credit card may be the best move, especially if you struggle paying your balance off in full each month, there are other options. In some cases it may be better transferring your balance to a low interest card, or getting a debt consolidation loan. Doing that could help you pay down your debt faster, and if you keep your credit card account open, your credit score could improve much faster too. The big risk with this strategy is that it’s easy to fall back into the habit of racking up debt on your old credit card. If that happens you could end up with more debt than you originally had.
Find a credit card that better suits your needs
You may be canceling your old card because of high fees, unfavorable interest rates or lack of rewards for your spending. Carefully consider the factors outlined above then follow the steps to cancel your card. If you’re interested in a new card, assess your financial needs to find the right credit card that will prove invaluable for years to come.
Frequently asked questions about cancelling a credit card
It depends on the provider. Some banks and credit card providers allow you to pay your balance in full and then request to close the account online, while others will require you to call them.
There are many different reasons people cancel a credit card. Some of the most common reasons include:
The introductory interest rate offer or $0 annual fee period is about to end.
You want to switch to a card with a lower interest rate.
You’re looking to take advantage of a signup bonus or an introductory offer on a different credit card.
You want to do a balance transfer to a new card.
You’re not using the benefits of the card (rewards, complimentary insurance, etc.) and are paying a high annual fee.
You lost your card or suspect it’s been stolen.
You simply don’t want to be tempted to spend on a credit card.
Whatever the reason, it’s important that you cancel your card properly.
This is possible in some cases. Get in touch with your card provider and explain your circumstances to arrange a solution that works for both you and the provider.
Yes. If your credit card has an annual fee, you have to pay it as long as the account remains active. You will need to contact your provider and close the account in order to avoid paying an annual fee.
Yes, your credit score will be slightly negatively affected. Since you may be closing two accounts that you’ve had for a long time, closing accounts will affect the length of your credit history. Length of credit history plays a role in your credit score, which means your score may drop by a few points.
Each time you apply for credit or close a credit account, it shows on your credit report for around 6 years.
Yes, if you haven’t initiated the process to formally cancel your card, you can call your credit card provider to ask for a replacement card.
No, your credit scores will likely differ slightly since the credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, use different algorithms to determine your exact score. In addition, some credit providers only report to one bureau, which means your information may differ across both credit reports resulting in a different credit score.
Emma Balmforth is a producer at Finder. She is passionate about helping people make financial decisions that will benefit them now and in the future. She has written for a variety of publications including World Nomads, Trek Effect and Uncharted. Emma has a degree in Business and Psychology from the University of Waterloo. She enjoys backpacking, reading and taking long hikes and road trips with her adventurous dog.
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