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How to Cancel a Credit Card in 6 Easy Steps

A credit card can be a great tool for someone who wants to build their credit or earn rewards. But at some point, you may need to get rid of one of your cards. While closing a credit card can hurt your credit, in some cases, canceling a card might make sense. For example, ditching a card could be a good idea if you’re trying to keep your spending to a minimum.

See how long it’ll take to pay off your credit card debt.

If you’re trying to close a credit card, you’ll need to avoid making mistakes in order to protect your credit score. Here’s how to cancel a credit card in six simple steps.

1. Pay off the Balance

If you close a credit card account without paying off your balance, you could end up paying unnecessary fees. If you normally carry a balance from month to month, you’ll have to pay the full balance for two consecutive months in order to wipe out your entire balance.

If you can’t pay off your credit card, you may want to consider moving your debt to another card. But be prepared to pay a balance transfer fee.

2. Redeem Any Rewards

If you close a rewards credit card, you may lose any cash back, miles or points that you haven’t used. If you have any rewards that you haven’t redeemed, you’ll need to check your rewards balance and find out whether you can turn those rewards into statement credits, apply them to travel or use them to make retail purchases.

Related Article: 15 Tips for Closing Credit Cards

3. Contact Your Credit Card Issuer

How to Cancel a Credit Card in 6 Easy Steps

When you’re ready to cancel your credit card, you’ll need to reach out to your card issuer and find out whether you can close the account online or over the phone. The customer service number should be located on the back of the credit card. It should also appear on your monthly statements and the card issuer’s website.

Once you get a hold of a representative, you’ll need to confirm that your credit card balance is zero. Then you can ask to close the account. Just make sure that you clarify that you’re making a consumer request. That information will be included on your credit report.

During your conversation, it’s also a good idea to take notes. That way, you can refer back to what you discussed if necessary.

4. Follow up With a Letter

Just in case there’s a communication mishap or error, it’s best to send a letter to your credit card issuer explaining that you called and asked to have your account closed. Be sure to include your name, address, phone number and account number. Don’t forget to also provide a copy of the canceled check or other proof that you paid off your account balance.

5. Check Your Credit Report

How to Cancel a Credit Card in 6 Easy Steps

Getting your credit card canceled may take a month or more. After 30 days, it’s a good idea to review your credit report. You can get a free copy of your report once a year from each of the three national credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian). When you receive your report, you’ll need to make sure that the account you closed was actually closed.

Whenever you look at your credit report, it’s important to look for errors. If there’s a mistake, you’ll need to dispute it by contacting the appropriate credit bureau and your account issuer. Keep in mind that negative information can remain on your credit report for as many as seven years. Bankruptcies may appear on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Related Article: How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

6. Snip, Snip

Once you’re certain your account is closed, you’ll need to cut up the card. That way, you can avoid becoming the victim of fraud or identity theft.

Keep in mind that canceling a credit card can hurt your credit score. So you’ll need to make sure that closing your account is the right move for you. In some cases, hanging on to a card you rarely use could be wise, especially if you plan to make a major purchase in the near future.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/MarsBars, ©iStock.com/JohnnyGreig, ©iStock.com/asiseeit

Liz Smith Liz Smith is a graduate of New York University and has been passionate about helping people make better financial decisions since her college days. Liz has been writing for SmartAsset for more than four years. Her areas of expertise include retirement, credit cards and savings. She also focuses on all money issues for millennials. Liz's articles have been featured across the web, including on AOL Finance, Business Insider and WNBC. The biggest personal finance mistake she sees people making: not contributing to retirement early in their careers.
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