Will cancelling a credit card affect my credit score?

As credit card accounts are included on your credit file, cancelling one could have an impact on your credit score.

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Your credit score is based on the details listed on your credit file, which includes information about active and closed accounts. This means any change to your credit file, including cancelling a card, could affect your credit score.

But because this is just one part of your credit file, the impact it has (or doesn't have) on your credit score also depends on other details listed on your file. So before you go ahead and cancel your credit card, let's take a look at three ways it could help or hurt your credit score.

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3 ways cancelling a credit card could improve your credit score

In general, your credit score is improved when you reduce some of the potential risks for lenders. So, if cancelling a credit card leads to any of the following changes, it could have a positive impact on your score:

  • If it gets rid of a high credit limit. Having access to a lot of credit can hurt your credit score because it increases the risk that any new lenders would face if you applied for another card or loan. By cancelling your credit card, you'll reduce this risk, which could also improve your credit score.
  • 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.

Check out more ways to improve your credit score

3 ways cancelling a credit card could hurt your credit score

If your credit history also shows you've recently made some late payments or have defaulted on accounts, cancelling your card might hurt your score or leave it unchanged.

  • If you have a lot of recent applications. Applying for a lot of credit cards (or other credit accounts) over a few months increases the level of risk for your existing and potential lenders. It may suggest that you're struggling with debt or 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 companies 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.
  • If making payments on your other accounts is still a challenge. While cancelling a credit card could be a step in the right direction, you may still find that it's difficult to make payments on your other accounts. This could lead to more late payments or defaults that lower your credit score. If you need help dealing with your credit accounts, you can get free support by calling Financial Counselling Australia on 1800 007 007 between 9:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday (AEST).

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What about my debt-to-credit ratio?

Debt-to-credit ratios are an important factor for credit scores in the US, showing how much debt someone is carrying versus the amount of credit they have access to through cards and other accounts. Cancelling a card could affect this ratio by reducing the amount of available credit.

As there is a lot of information online about US credit ratings, this term often comes up when you're searching for details on Australian credit scores. However, debt-to-credit ratios are not a factor in Australia because our credit files only show the total amount of credit available. This means lenders in Australia typically to look at the amount of credit you have access to in comparison to your income.

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 when it comes to getting approved for the cards and loans you want in the future.

Compare the latest credit card offers

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Purchase rate Interest-free period Annual fee Balance transfer rate
Citi Rewards Card
21.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49 annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 30 months
30-Month Balance Transfer & Annual Fee Discount
Save on interest with 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 30 months with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a $49 first-year annual fee.
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard
0% p.a. for 12 months, reverts to 19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0
0% p.a. for 12 months
0% Purchase & Balance Transfer Offers
Save on new and existing interest charges with 0% p.a. on balance transfers and purchases for 12 months. Ends 31 January 2021.
Qantas Premier Platinum
19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$199 annual fee for the first year ($299 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
Balance Transfer Offer & 100,000 Bonus Points
Get 100,000 bonus Qantas Points, 75 bonus Status Credits and a 0% p.a. balance transfer rate for 18 months (with a one-time 1% BT fee).
St.George Vertigo Classic
13.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 24 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & $0 First-Year Annual Fee
Get 0% p.a. promotional balance transfer rate, with no balance transfer fee. Plus, save with a first-year annual fee waiver.
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
20.74% p.a.
Up to 44 days on purchases
$450
100,000 bonus Qantas Points & $200 Statement Credit
Receive 100,000 bonus Qantas Points and $200 back on your card when you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months. Plus, a yearly $450 Travel Credit.
ANZ Low Rate
12.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($58 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 25 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
0% Balance Transfer Offer & $0 First Year Annual Fee
Save with 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 25 months (with a 1.5% BT fee) and $0 first-year annual fee. Plus a 12.49% p.a. purchase interest rate.
NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card
19.99% p.a.
Up to 44 days on purchases
$295 annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Up to 130,000 bonus Qantas Points & First-Year Annual Fee Discount
Up to 130,000 bonus Qantas Points (100k when you spend $3,000 in the first 60 days and 30k after 12 months). Plus, a reduced first year annual fee.
Westpac Low Rate Card
13.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$59
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1% balance transfer fee
Long-Term Balance Transfer Offer & $200 Cashback
A low rate card offering 0% p.a. interest on balance transfers for the first 24 months and a $200 cashback offer.
Bendigo Bank Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 15 months, reverts to 11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$45
13.99% p.a.
0% Interest Rate & $150 Woolworths Gift Card Offer
Get 0% p.a. on purchases for 15 months and a $150 Woolworths Supermarket gift card when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. Ends 31 Jan 2021.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
20.24% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$425
20.24% p.a.
120,000 Bonus Points & $200 back
Collect 120,000 bonus Qantas Points and $200 back when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, complimentary lounge passes.
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