Closing a credit card account can have hidden costs, so it’s important to know all of the facts before you do. Before closing your American Express account, you should figure out how it will affect your credit score and your rewards, including your Membership Rewards points.
Should you close your American Express account?
Before closing your American Express credit or charge card, know your reason for wanting to close your account and weigh your options. Are you tempted to spend more than you can afford by having this credit or charge card in your wallet? Are you paying an annual fee on a card that you don’t use? If so, it may make sense to close your credit card.
However, it’s wise to take a look at your options before closing a credit or charge card because canceling a line of credit can affect your credit score. One of the ways closing a card can hurt your score is by reducing your available credit limit and thus changing your credit utilization ratio.
A credit utilization ratio compares the total amount of credit that you have available to the amount of credit actually being used. When you close a credit card account, it brings the total available credit amount down, which brings your credit utilization ratio up (assuming your amount of credit used, or debt, doesn’t change). And when your credit utilization goes up, it can lower your credit score.
Additionally, closing a card that you’ve held for a long time can impact your average credit history (which affects your credit score), as well as potentially reduce your credit mix if it’s currently your only credit card. Your credit mix refers to the types of credit you have, such as a credit card, personal loan, home mortgage or car loan. Reducing your credit mix may also have a small negative effect on your credit score.
Options to consider instead of closing your Amex card
If you want to close your Amex card because it has an annual fee or because it creates a temptation for you to overspend, you have a few options to consider.
For example, if you don’t want to pay an annual fee for a card that you don’t use often, then you can usually request what’s called a product change. That’s when the card issuer (in this case, American Express) changes your existing card account to a different product, such as a card without an annual fee.
When you request a product change, your balance and available credit remain the same, but the terms of your card do change. For instance, the new card might be one without an annual fee that offers fewer benefits and a less generous rewards program, and you won’t have to worry about using it enough to justify paying that annual fee.
And if you’re closing your credit or charge card due to overspending, then try to avoid carrying your card so that you are not tempted to use it. Some people call this “sock drawing,” as they place a card in a hidden-away spot, such as a sock drawer, and others even advocate freezing a tempting credit card in a block of ice so it has to melt before you can use it for impulse purchases.
If you’ve weighed your options and closing your card is the right choice, read on for how to do so.
Before closing your American Express account
Before you move to close your American Express account, there are several steps you may need to take.
Consider asking to transfer your credit limit to another card
To preserve your credit limit and credit score (remember that credit utilization ratio), consider asking American Express if it can transfer your credit limit to another American Express card. This will maintain the total amount of your available credit, diminishing the negative effect of closing your card on your credit score.
Clear your balance
Before moving ahead with closing your American Express account, make sure that your account has a zero balance. Pay off any outstanding balance in full with enough time for the payment to post. Also, double-check that you do not have any outstanding or pending deposits or charges on your card at the time of closing.
It’s helpful to stop using your American Express card a few weeks before you plan to close the account. Remember to also change any automatic or recurring payments that use your American Express card.
You could also consider a balance transfer to a new credit card if you cannot make a direct payment at the time of closing your card. Just note that, like most credit card issuers, American Express will not allow you to transfer a balance between two of its accounts.
Plot the effect of closing your card on your credit score
Before closing your account, you should try to determine the effect it will have on your credit score. Closing an account could lower your credit score, as it can increase your debt to credit ratio in your overall credit portfolio.
Because closing an account can impact your credit score, it’s typically best to avoid closing a credit card right before applying for a large amount of credit, such as a car loan or mortgage. You may also wish to refrain from closing accounts when your credit score will be used in an important decision, like when applying for a new job or an apartment.
If you have missed payments on this account, know that canceling a credit or charge card doesn’t mean that its payment information comes off your credit report right away. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, late payments and foreclosures are removed from a credit report after seven years.
Preserve your American Express Membership Rewards points
If you’re closing a credit or charge card account that offers Membership Rewards points, you will only be able to retain those points if you have another American Express account that also earns these points. You have 30 days from the date of cancellation to keep at least one card account open to retain your points, and that account can’t have a past-due payment or an outstanding payment returned.
If you’re canceling your only American Express card that offers Membership Rewards points, you’ll likely want to use up your points before closing the account, or you could consider a product change to a no-fee card to maintain your access to the points.
How to close an American Express account
If you have thought through the options and have decided to close your American Express account, you have a few choices for how to actually cancel the card.
Before contacting American Express, make sure to have your credit or charge card account information and billing address ready, plus be ready to provide a reason for canceling. The reason does not have to be complicated, but the American Express representative will likely ask you for it.
To cancel your American Express account online, perform the following steps:
- Go to the American Express website.
- Log in to your online account.
- Click on “Help” at the top of the page.
- Under “Chat with us” click on “Live Chat” to start talking to a customer service representative.
- Once connected, let them know you want to cancel your card.
Over the phone
If you prefer to speak to a live person, call the number on the back of your card and ask to speak to a representative or follow the prompts.
If you don’t have your card on hand, call the credit card customer service number at 1-800-528-4800 for consumer cards or 800-492-3344 for small-business cards. Be sure to write down the name of the representative in case you need to reference it later.
You can make your request in writing by sending a letter to:
P.O. Box 981535
El Paso, TX 79998-1535
Closing a credit card is an important financial decision. And while there are legitimate reasons to close an account, you also have alternative options to consider. If you do decide to close your American Express account, make sure to watch for written confirmation of the account closure within two weeks.