Credit Scores and Reports

Keeping your credit score high in retirement


As retirement approaches, it’s time to review your collection of credit cards to make sure they’re still working for you, and to keep debt low

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Question for the expert

Dear Let’s Talk Credit,
I am confused about whether to close credit card accounts that I do not use. I have an excessive amount of money, more than $100,000, in available credit on the cards, if I was crazy enough to max them out. Some of them my husband used when he was in business, but he’s retired now. We both are retired, and I just need to know whether to call and cancel or leave them alone. I owe about $1,800 total on all the cards. — Elizabeth

Answer for the expert

Dear Elizabeth,
All that available credit certainly can be tempting! I know you are only joking about maxing out credit cards — that’s never a good idea, particularly when you are retired. In fact, I would encourage you to pay off the $1,800 in balances that you currently have on your cards and, in the future, only charge what you can pay off in full each month.

Now, for your question. During your retirement years, keeping two or three open credit card accounts with reasonable credit limits makes sense. Credit cards provide the convenience of paying with credit without having to carry cash, as well as the added benefit of any reward programs and the consumer protections that apply when purchasing goods with credit. However, you don’t need or want access to more than $100,000 of credit.

Several things should be considered when choosing which cards to keep open:

First, try to keep your oldest accounts open. Length of credit history is a factor in your credit score. Positive, closed accounts are generally removed from your credit report after 10 years, so you would eventually lose all that positive credit history.

Second, take a look at how you plan to use the cards and review any fees associated with the accounts. For example, if your rewards card has a hefty annual fee, you should decide if you are receiving enough benefit in exchange for the annual fee.

Finally, keep in mind that closing all but two or three of your accounts may negatively affect your credit utilization ratio and, in turn, your credit score.

Currently, you have more than $100,000 in available credit and have only used $1,800 of it. This means your credit utilization ratio is very good at around 2 percent. Should you decide to close some accounts to give you access to only, say, $4,000 in total credit, your credit utilization ratio would be high at 45 percent and may lower your credit score, at least temporarily.

The ideal ratio is less than 10 percent of available credit used. So maybe a good target for you is a credit line of $20,000. Of course, once you pay off the $1,800, you will not be carrying any balances, so lower credit limits won’t be an issue for your credit utilization ratio and would no longer negatively affect your credit score.

Good luck and thanks for writing! Let’s keep talking!

See related:How credit utilization impacts your credit score

What’s up next?

In Credit Scores and Reports

NY Fed: Credit card balances reach new low

Consumers resumed paying down their card balances in the first quarter of 2013, the New York Fed reported, and delinquencies improved

Published: May 14, 2013

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: July 17th, 2019
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

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.

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.