Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today



Contests and

Driver Safety

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Happy African American couple

AARP Books

Visit the Books Section

Enjoy titles on retirement, Social Security, and becoming debt-free.

Jobs You Might Like

most popular


Ask Sid

New Credit Cards and Your Credit Score

It’s better to leave a card inactive than cancel it

En español | Q. What happens to my credit score if I cancel a credit card I never activated?

A. Even if a card hasn’t been activated, your credit score will take a short-term hit.

Sign up for the AARP Money Newsletter.

Here’s why. Activated or not, the financial institution that issued the card will have reported it as an open account to the big credit bureaus, says Anthony Sprauve of FICO, the company that develops the widely used credit scoring system of that name.

If you cancel the card, you’ll lose its available credit line.  Any balances you have on other cards will suddenly loom larger as a percentage of your total credit availability on those other cards. That will tend to lower your credit score — about one-third of a score is determined by your balances-to-credit limits ratio.

Says Sprauve: “It’s better to let a card sit there inactive than actually close the account.”

In general, you should avoid opening credit accounts unnecessarily. And that includes agreeing to get a store-branded credit card for a one-day discount. Even if the plastic isn’t physically issued that day, that account is considered open the moment you agree to the account, whether or not you later call the toll-free number to activate the card.

A final thing to consider: How did you get this plastic that you never activated? If it arrived unsolicited, it might indicate identity theft. So immediately check your credit report.

You may also like: Should you get a prepaid debit card?

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits HomeServe

Members can protect their homes with comprehensive repair plans from HomeServe.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Woman holding smartphone in city, Google map tool

Members can find discounts on the go via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder app.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.