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Will Canceling Credit Cards Lower My Score?

Q. I have several credit cards that I haven't used for years, but I've been told that canceling them will lower my credit score. Is that true?

A. Closing unused credit card accounts may be a good idea from a credit management perspective, but it could lower your score. Here's why: Your FICO score (FICO is a company that computes credit scores) takes into consideration your credit utilization ratio—the amount of credit card debt you've accrued in relation to your total available credit. If you close your credit card accounts, you will have less available credit and a higher utilization ratio, which can lower your FICO score.

Careen Foster, a spokeswoman for FICO, says that it's better to use existing cards periodically rather than closing accounts, especially long-held ones.