Credit Q&A: Will Not Using My Card Hurt My Score?

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Q: I applied for a credit card and got approved, then received the card in the mail and called to activate it. However, I’m wondering what will happen if I don't use my credit card. Will my credit score drop? Will my credit score increase since 10% or 15% is based on credit history – or will it not affect my credit score in any way? – David

A: Having a credit card that you don’t use is more likely to have a positive impact on your score in the long-term. This is largely because the credit limit will get factored into your score and lead to a lower credit utilization ratio.

Additionally, you’re right: Over time, it will help to age your credit report, which determines 15% of your total score and isn’t influenced by how well or poorly you managed your credit. Instead, it’s longevity that matters, so the longer your credit history, the higher the score will be.

(Keep in mind, however, there might be a small ding to your credit right after activating the card, due to the inquiry it generates and the fact that it may have lowered the average age of your accounts.)

And there is one other curveball you should know about.

“If the card isn't used occasionally, though, the issuer might close the card and if that happens, it might hurt your score because you'd lose that card's credit limit and your utilization ratio would go up,” says Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert with Credit.com.

However, contrary to popular belief, closed accounts stay on your credit report for a long time so any negative impact a higher utilization ratio would have on your score certainly wouldn't be sudden, Harzog adds. It also would only be dramatic if you were carrying a significant balance on other existing credit cards.

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can email her credit questions at Skowronski.jeanine@thestreet.com, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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