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Ask The Experts: 3 Credit Questions, One Answer

Tuesday, 26 May 2009 | 2:23 PM ET

Q. Carmen & Crew: We really enjoy watching your show. The mix of guests and the questions raised from your callers are insightful and helpful. We record your shows every night. Keep up the good work!

We'd like to seek your advice on a situation my wife and I are experiencing. We have foolishly opened 35 credit card accounts over a period of about 12-15 years and allowed them to accumulate. Fortunately, most of these credit card accounts have zero balances. We would like to cancel these credit cards with the zero balances as quickly as possible because the credit card companies are bombarding us with new credit cards and offers. FYI, our current credit score is currently vacillating between 680 to 709.
Here are our questions. Thank you! - Bill & Konnie, CA

1.) We are considering canceling these accounts we don't use beginning with the newest accounts first and retaining the accounts that have the most credit history. Is there a guideline suggesting how to go about canceling these newer credit card accounts to simplify our lives without affecting our FICO scores?

A. DON'T DO IT!!! You're not getting other credit card offers because you have so many open accounts. Closing them won't slow down the junk mail.

If you want to stop that stuff then go to www.optoutprescreen.comand you can have your name removed from the credit bureau's mailing lists.

There is no right way to cancel cards. You might end up lowering your scores. Leave them open.

2.) Are the credit card companies, obligated to retain our credit history even though we initiate the action to close these newer accounts?

A. No, reporting to the credit bureaus is a voluntary event. They can choose not to report even when you have an open and active account.

You're better off leaving them open.

3.) Should we close some of the older accounts as well, assuming these companies will retain our credit history and good standing?

A. Do I sound like a broken record yet? No, leave them all open. Shred them if you're worried about someone stealing them.

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John Ulzheimer is a nationally recognized credit expert, president of Consumer Education for Credit.com and contributor to On The Money. Learn more about him at CreditExpertWitness.com.