Should I close credit accounts?

I value my excellent credit rating. I have two major credit cards — one I use daily and pay off at the end of the month; the other I never use. I also have three store credit cards I haven’t used in years. I’ve read articles that advise consumers to close accounts, but then other financial consultants disagree. Which is correct?
– T. Lumpkin, Covington, GA

Having these accounts open hasn’t hurt you because, as you say, you have excellent credit. As long as you continue to pay responsibly, having five credit cards shouldn’t negatively affect your credit rating. In fact, having held a high limit credit card and having been in good standing for a number of years is viewed as a good thing for your credit rating, no matter how little you’ve used the account. Canceling those cards eliminates a positive part of your credit history, which you don’t want to do.

However, there may come a time when the combined credit limit of all of your cards might affect your credit rating. When available credit is looked at alongside debt from student loans, a mortgage, a car loan, etc., it does contribute to the overall level of risk you represent for potential lenders. Also, according to Bankrate.com, credit scoring models may use the following formula to calculate your score: the total amount of debt on credit cards and revolving accounts divided by the total amount of available credit on those accounts. Closing accounts may increase your level of outstanding debt against your available credit.

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