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When is the Right Time to Retire Old Credit Cards?

20 million Americans haven’t changed their primary credit card in over 10 years.

Old credit cards in a red wallet

When it comes to technology, consumers always seem to be looking for the latest and greatest. We upgrade devices like phones every few years. On the other hand, when it comes to credit cards, many consumers seem to be satisfied with the status quo. That’s according to a new study by that finds 20 million U.S. consumers have not changed their primary credit card in more than 10 years.

“A 10-year-old credit card is kind of like a 10-year-old pair of pants or a jacket. It’ probably doesn’t fit you that well anymore,” explains Matt Schulz, Senior Industry Analyst at Credit

Should you cancel old credit cards?

“Even if you decide to get new credit cards, you still want to keep your old credit cards open and active,” says April Lewis-Parks, Financial Education Director for Consolidated Credit. “That’s because part of your credit score calculation depends on your credit age. That’s how long you’ve used credit and it’s measured by how many old, active accounts that you still maintain. Closing old credit cards can decrease your credit score.”

Still, that doesn’t mean that you should keep an old credit card as the primary that you use. New credit cards often have better features, such as more robust bonus or rewards programs. So, it may be in your best interest to shop around for a new card that fits your needs and budget.

“Know thyself,” encourages Schulz. “Take the time to ask yourself a few questions. And the biggest ones are, what do you want to get from this card? And how do you plan to use it? Before you sign up for that new card with the big signup bonus, make sure you can pay off that credit card when you get it.”

Taking time to shop around ensures that you get the best primary credit card to fit your lifestyle and financial habits. Then you can start using it as your primary card.

What to do with old credit cards

As Lewis-Parks explained, closing old credit cards can hurt your credit score. So, instead of closing them, you should find a small, reasonable use for them in your budget. That way you use the card and keep the account active, without taking on too much debt on an old account.

“Think about using old credit cards to pay for a bill or another recurring expense, such as tolls,” Lewis-Parks encourages. “Try to choose something that’s already a necessary part of your budget. Then use your old credit cards to cover those costs. Since the expense was already part of your budget, you should be able to pay off the balance in-full anytime you make charges. This keeps debt manageable and keeps your oldest accounts open and in good standing to maximize your credit score.”

In addition, Matt Schulz says you should talk to the issuers of your old credit cards to see if you can get better terms on the account.

“Say I love my card, but the interest rate is really high and I’m getting offered cards with a lot of low APRs, is there anything you can do to work with me?” Schulz explains. “And there’s a good chance that they will.”

For more tips on how to negotiate effectively with your credit card issuers, use Consolidated Credit’s Interest Rate Negotiation Guide.

Have a question about the best way to use credit cards or manage debt? Ask Consolidated Credit’s certified credit counselors now!

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