Make Sure Closed Credit Account Really Closes

Credit Report Showing Open Account Can Cause Problems

When you cancel credit cards, make sure that the cancellation “takes.” Even though you wrote to the creditor, canceled the account, sent back the cut-up card and got an acknowledgment, the account may still appear “open” on your credit report. This can also apply to paid installment contracts. You may have made your last payment and received your contract stamped “PAID” but your credit report still shows it “open.”

To be sure your canceled cards or paid accounts have indeed been closed on your credit report, get a copy of your credit report. It’s free if you were turned down for credit based on information it contained. Otherwise you’ll pay anywhere from $3 to $15 depending on the bureau and the state you live in.

There are three major credit bureaus:

Experian (Formerly TRW)
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949

Equifax Credit Information Services
, Inc.
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
(800) 685-1111

Trans Union Corporation

Trans Union Consumer Relations
760 West Sproul Road, P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
(800) 916-8800

All of them may have your name. Write to their address above or look in your Yellow Pages under "Credit Bureaus" for local branches.

If your spouse is cosigning, get your spouse's history, too, some bureaus will send you your spouse's record on request; others require his or her express consent. There is no such thing as a joint credit report. You have to request the reports filed under each of your names.

When you get a copy of your credit report. If your credit report shows a closed account as open, follow the bureaus' procedures for reporting an error. They have to verify your claim with the creditor within 30 days and inform you of the results. If the creditor agrees that you did, in deed, close the account, it will be so listed. If the creditor itself is still carrying your account as open, you will have to cancel all over again.

You can't make canceled accounts disappear from your credit bureau file. They stay on your history to show how promptly you paid that particular account. Closed accounts will stay on your record for up to seven years.

Here are two situations where it's important that you check your credit report to be sure that closed accounts have been properly noted:

  • You are applying for an important loan, like a mortgage. An inaccurate credit history might keep you from getting it.
  • You are separating from your spouse and want his or her new transaction off your personal credit report. Write to all your creditors, closing joint accounts and asking for a new account in your name alone. (Tell your spouse you're doing it so that he or she can write for a personal card at the same time.)

Three months later, get a copy of your credit report, to be sure that your joint accounts are closed. Any loans you co-signed, or any unpaid revolving credit that you're both responsible for, will stay on your credit history.