Will closing a credit card account help my FICO score?

The short answer is no. We never recommend closing a credit card for the sole purpose of raising your FICO score.

This may sound a bit counter-intuitive; after all, cleaning up your credit profile by getting rid of old or unused credit cards sounds like a good idea - and it may be from an overall credit management perspective. If you are tempted to charge more than you should just because you have more availability to credit, then getting rid of that temptation by closing some credit cards might be your best course of action.

However, your FICO score takes into consideration something called a Credit Utilization Ratio. This ratio basically looks at your total used credit in relation to your total available credit; the higher this ratio is, the more it can negatively affect your FICO score. So, by closing an old or unused card, you are essentially wiping away some of your available credit and there by increasing your credit utilization ratio.

It's a bit tricky, so here's an example:

Say you have 3 credit cards. Credit card A has a $500 balance and a $2000 credit limit. Credit card B is an unused card with a zero balance and a $3000 limit. Credit card C has a $1,500 balance and a $1,500 limit:

Card | Balance | Limit
:--: | --: | --:
A | $500 | $2,000
B | $0 | $3,000
C | $1,500 | $1,500

In this scenario your Credit Utilization Ratio looks like this:

Card | Balance | Limit | Utilization Ratio (balance limit)
:--: | --: | --: | :--:
A | $500 | $2,000 | 25%
B | $0 | $3,000 | 0%
C | $1,500 | $1,500 | 100%
Total | $2,000 | $6,500 | 30%

Now, if you decide to close credit card B because it's an old card that you never use, this is how your credit utilization ratio would look like:

Card | Balance | Limit | Utilization Ratio (balance limit)
:--: | --: | --: | :--:
A | $500 | $2,000 | 25%
C | $1,500 | $1,500 | 100%
Total | $2,000 | $3,500 | 57%

See that your Credit Utilization Ratio rose from 30% to 57% by closing the unused credit card?

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