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How to Cancel a Credit Card

Let me start off by saying I’m proud of you!

Whether you’ve decided to finally break up with your credit cards or you’re still exploring the idea, even thinking about canceling your credit cards means you’re on the right track.

While there are plenty of “experts” trying to steer you in the opposite direction, they just want your monthly payments. I, on the other hand, want you to have zero payments. Trust me, saying goodbye to your credit card is 100% worth it! And I’m going to walk you through how to cancel a credit card—step by step.

How to Cancel a Credit Card: Step by Step
Does Canceling a Credit Card Affect Your Credit?
When Should You Cancel a Credit Card?
Common Questions About Canceling a Credit Card
What to Do After You Cancel Your Credit Card

How to Cancel a Credit Card: Step by Step

Canceling your credit card can be a bit tricky—mostly because credit card companies don’t want to lose you as a customer. After all, they’ve been pocketing your hard-earned money like it’s their business (cause it is!).

But the more you know about the process, the easier it’ll be to make sure you come out ahead. Here’s how to cancel a credit card in five steps.

1. Cut up your credit card.

First things first: If you’re serious about ditching credit, you need to walk the talk! It’s time to literally cut off your access to credit—by cutting up your credit cards. So, if you haven’t already, get out your heavy-duty scissors and get to snippin’! Cut up and cut off those no-good pieces of plastic. Not only is it a great way to take out your anger on what these cards have done to your finances, but it’s also the most important step toward debt freedom!

And just so you know, you don’t need to pay off your credit card before you cut it up. In fact, getting rid of the actual card doesn’t affect your current balance. It just keeps you from adding to it. Think of it like blocking your ex’s number after a bad breakup. Cutting up your credit cards means you and credit are officially over. And like T-Swift said, “We are never ever ever getting back together!”

2. Pay off your credit card balance.

Just because you shred your cards and vow to never use them again doesn’t mean they’re out of your life just yet. You still have to close the accounts. But you won’t be able to officially close your credit card account until your balance is zero.

So, if you still have a balance, this is the time to pay it off! Whether you owe $500 or $25,000, start putting every single extra dollar you have toward knocking it out. And if you’ve got more than one credit card balance to tackle, use the debt snowball method to knock them out one by one. This is the method my husband and I used to knock out almost a dozen credit cards, and it works if you work it!

I’m not going to lie—paying off credit card debt isn’t easy. But you can do it! And you’ll get there a lot faster when you make (and stick to) a zero-based budget. After all, a budget is self-care! It’s you deciding for yourself that you care about where your money goes. Every dollar you save, every extra hour you work—it all counts. Because when you have a plan for your money, you can make more progress toward your goal.

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Pay off debt fast and save more money with Financial Peace University.

Go ahead and create your free budget right now with EveryDollar. If you make it a point to tell your money where to go every month, you’ll have that credit card paid off lickety-split!

3. Call your credit card company, bank or issuer.

Once your card is fully paid off, get out your phone and call up your credit card’s customer service number (or the number of whoever issued the card). Make sure they know you’re canceling your credit card account—not that you’re “thinking about it” or you’re “wondering if you could.” You’re canceling your account. Period.

Be ready to stand your ground, though. And don’t let those jokers take you for a ride! Customer service reps have been trained for this exact moment and probably won’t let you off the hook too easily. They’ll do all they can to keep you on the line and try to change your mind. (Believe it or not, they even have a script for people who follow our plan—the Baby Steps.)

Don’t be surprised if they try to scare you with gimmicks like “You’ll lose all your hard-earned reward points,” “Your FICO score will never be the same,” or “No more cash-back bonuses for you.”

Once they realize you’re way smarter than that, they’ll probably try to win you over with some freebies like “We’ll give you 5,000 airline miles,” “What if we waive your annual fee?” or even, “How about no fees?”

Whatever you do, don’t fall for any of it. They’re not trying to shower you with gifts. They’re trying to keep the thousands of dollars in revenue you represent. Because when they see you, all they see are dollar signs. And I don’t know about you, but I refuse to support a product that depends on my failure to earn money!

You might have to put up a fight (with class, of course—don’t start cussing folks out) to close your credit card account. And if you aren’t getting through to the person on the other end, don’t be afraid to ask for their manager. Just keep telling them you want to close your account. They’ll do it eventually—when they realize you can’t be bribed.

4. Get confirmation in writing.

Here’s the most important part: Get it in writing, people! No matter what you do, you want written confirmation from the credit card company that your account is officially closed. You need to see the evidence!

It also helps to keep your own record of any conversations you’ve had with the credit card company. Be as detailed as possible. (Remember what your English teacher said: who, what, when, where and why.) Having these details will come in handy just in case the credit card company tries to get all funky fresh and give you any trouble down the road.

So, use your notes to write a certified letter (which gives you proof the credit card company received it) with the details of your conversation, including date, time, names and any confirmation numbers you received. Make sure to request a written statement that shows your balance is all clear and your account is completely closed.

5. Never look back.

Congratulations! While other folks are out here keeping old accounts open to “save” their credit score, you’ve taken a huge, intentional step toward being debt-free for good.

So, what now? (I’m so glad you asked!) Share the good news with your friends and family and show them how to close their own credit card accounts. You could be the inspiration they need to take control of their money too!

Does Canceling a Credit Card Affect Your Credit?

Ah, the FICO score. Listen, I hate the FICO score. Why? Because the whole system is based on how you handle debt. It doesn’t have anything to do with how well you actually manage your money or even how much money you have in your bank account. And that makes absolutely no sense. The only score I care about is the Do-I-Have-Actual-Money score.

See, society tells us we need to have a credit score to do just about anything (like buy a house or car or rent an apartment). That’s because the people pushing credit scores are the same people who profit from you borrowing money.

It’s a system that’s rigged from the start. But you don’t have to play the credit score game anymore! As a matter of fact, you can do everything you need to do without a credit score—except borrow money. And I know this from experience because I let my credit score drop to zero.

Heads up, though: When you close your credit card account, your credit score will probably drop, but only for a short period of time. And eventually (when you’ve stopped messing with credit altogether), you’ll have a credit score of zero. And guess what? That’s a good thing!

It’s like the ace card. It might seem like a low card, but when you play the right game, it’s the highest card in the deck. And when it comes down to it, we are not playing the credit score game. We are playing the win with money game!

When Should You Cancel a Credit Card?

Like I said earlier, you can’t cancel your credit card account until you’ve completely paid off your balance.

But that doesn’t mean you need to wait to cut up your credit cards. In fact, you can do that right now! And the sooner you stop using credit, the sooner you can pay off what you owe and cancel your card.

Common Questions About Canceling a Credit Card

Can I cancel my credit card online?

You’d think in this digital age you’d be able to close your credit card account with only a few clicks, right? But not surprisingly, most credit card companies want to make it as hard as possible for you to close your account, so many of them don’t offer an online option.

But every company is different. It doesn’t hurt to double-check their website to see if you can cancel your card without having to talk to a customer service rep. Either way, you still need to get proof in writing from the credit card company that your account is officially closed.

Is it bad to cancel a credit card right away?

Listen: Canceling a credit card is always the best option. So, if you signed up for a brand-new card and immediately decided it was a terrible decision—you’re right.

Now, closing a credit card soon after signing up will probably put a small dent in your credit score. But that’s just the credit card company’s way of slapping your wrist for not playing their game. Believe me, though, it’s better to get out while you can. I’d rather get a little ding on my credit score than get whooped by debt.

Is it better to let a credit card expire or to close it?

If you ask the credit reporting systems (like Experian), they’ll say it’s better to keep your credit card account open for as long as possible. Even if you’re not using your card, keeping the account open somehow shows you’re responsible with credit (yeah, it doesn’t make any sense—shocker). And you probably won’t be penalized if you let it expire.

But here’s the thing: If you’re not going to use your credit card, what do you need the account for? If it was me, I’d close that account as soon as I could!

What to Do After You Cancel Your Credit Card

When you cancel your credit cards, you’re taking the first step toward a life free from debt. But there’s more to managing your money than ditching your credit cards. You need a game plan to help you make progress toward your financial goals.

In Financial Peace University (FPU), you’ll learn how to pay off debt, save for emergencies, and build wealth that lasts—without using credit as a crutch. This course has helped millions of people take control of their finances and build better money habits—including me and my husband, Sam. We were able to pay off over $460,000 of consumer debt using this plan. And I know it will help you too!

And listen, if you’re still not sure about the whole “no credit” thing, Lesson 2 of FPU will have you more motivated than ever to cut up your cards!

It's time to stop paying for the past and start investing for your future. Watch FPU today!

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Jade Warshaw

About the author

Jade Warshaw

Jade Warshaw is a personal finance coach, bestselling author of Money’s Not a Math Problem, and regular co-host on The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk radio show in America. Jade and her husband paid off nearly half a million dollars of debt, and now she’s a six-figure debt elimination expert who uses her journey to help others get out of debt and take control of their money. She’s appeared on CNBC, Fox News and Cheddar News and been featured in Fortune and POLITICO magazines. Through her social content, recent book, syndicated columns and speaking events, Jade is on a mission to change the typical American money mindset. Learn More.

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