Got great credit? Cancel that unwanted store card

To Her Credit columnist Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). She writes "To Her Credit," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women, credit and debt, for, and also wrote for MSN Money, and, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs.

Ask a question.

Question Dear Sally,
I recently made a bad decision. I ended up signing up for a new credit card in a store without realizing it. Because the situation wasn't explained to me, I thought the store was checking my credit in order to permit me entrance to their layaway program. When I realized that I was actually being signed up for a credit card, I was so stunned I went along with it.

My credit score is in the 800s and I have worked hard to keep it there. I do not want this new card, but I am afraid to cancel it for fear that it might hurt my credit score. I presently have two Visa cards and one Mastercard. This new card is also a Visa. I am comfortable with the number of cards I have now and do not want another one. I have not even received the new card yet. I am wondering if it will help or hurt me to cancel it immediately upon its arrival. And ultimately, do you know is there any way to get out of this without harming my credit?

Thank you so much for your help!  – Andrea


Dear Andrea,
I agree with you. Three major credit cards are plenty for most people. More cards just mean more payment due dates to keep track of, more plastic in your wallet, and more bills in your mailbox or inbox. It’s also more cards and numbers floating around, which unless you’re very attentive, can mean more chances for other people to commit fraud.

Fortunately, the solution to your problem is simple. Cancel the card immediately – the sooner, the better. Call the credit card company and tell them to close the account. If they charge an annual fee, request that it be waived. Be prepared for one last sales pitch when you try to cancel. You can’t blame them for trying, but if you don’t want the card, that’s your decision.

Experts often warn consumers against canceling credit cards and inadvertently harming their credit. The main reasons behind that logic are that by canceling a card, you may shorten your length of credit history and change your debt-to-credit-limit ratio. Because you haven’t used this card, and you are only returning your situation back to what it was before you got the card, you shouldn’t have a problem. Your excellent credit, and the fact that you already have a few, but not too many, credit cards are in your favor.

I also wouldn’t worry about the effect of the “hard inquiry” on your score. When you applied for the card and the bank checked your credit report, the hard inquiry can make your score to dip a few points, but it should hardly be noticeable. It’s temporary, and it’s already been done. Keeping or not keeping the card won’t change that. A score in the 800s is something to be proud of, and it would take much more than an inquiry or two to cause it to drop enough to cause you any concern.

It’s a good idea to check your credit report in a month or two. You can get a free report once a year at By then, your report may show this short-lived credit card account, the dates it was open, and the fact that you -- not the bank -- closed the account.  

It’s a bit strange that the store managed to give you a credit card when you were only trying to do a layaway. You can get out of it without significant harm, however. Shake off this unwanted credit card, and you and your credit score will be just fine.

See related: 4 reasons you should get a department store card, 2016 Retail Card Survey: APRs climbing, sign-up deals fading

Meet's reader Q&A experts

Does a personal finance problem have you worried? Monday through Saturday,'s Q&A experts answer questions from readers. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.

Join the discussion
We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

Weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, advice, articles and tips delivered to your inbox. It's FREE.

Updated: 11-15-2018