How can I close phantom credit card accounts on my credit report?
November 1, 2018 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I recently pulled my US credit report. There's an American Express credit card listed that was opened in 2001 and is allegedly still open and in good standing. I vaguely remember opening an Amex around that time but I don't have it any more and I'm sure I closed it years ago. I don't have the full number (only the partial number listed on the credit report) - is there a way I can get Amex to close this account? Or is it likely just an error on the part of the credit report agency?
posted by sunflower16 to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I need to help an elderly family member close an account that hasn't been used a number of years and all we have is the last four digits. (Am Ex sends letters every time the account terms get changed - that's how I found out about it. When I called, they said the account owner could call and they would close it over the phone. If you don't know the full card number, they will ask for other information such as your social.
posted by metahawk at 10:07 PM on November 1, 2018

If theaccount is shown as open and in good standing, it may be doing good things for your credit report unless you are showing too much available credit. Proceed cautiously.
posted by Kalatraz at 10:18 PM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

Never close a line of credit that's in good standing. The longer you have an account like that in good standing, the better your credit score will be.
posted by erst at 10:30 PM on November 1, 2018

Kalatraz and erst: Even if I already have several other credit cards that are in good standing and have been for a few years?
posted by sunflower16 at 11:37 PM on November 1, 2018

It may be worth it to call Amex just to figure out what's going on (and maybe have them send you a new card) but yeah, don't close an account in good standing. That will do more harm than good. One of the things that is measured is the percentage of credit you utilize versus how much is available so in general, having a lower percentage is better. Keep the account.
posted by acidnova at 2:57 AM on November 2, 2018

I'd ignore it - a 17-year-old account in good standing is good for your credit score.
posted by COD at 4:57 AM on November 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

Unless you're paying for it and the credit line is low enough that it won't change your (reported! It didn't matter if you actually pay them off in full every month if that's not what shows on your report) utilization, getting rid of a 17 year old account isn't wise absent some other reason for doing so.

Besides, you may want one of amex's other products in the future. You can convert that old account to any of their credit products and even when you can't they usually can "transfer" the credit line between accounts. (Really, they're just reducing account A's credit line by $x and increasing the other by $x, but the end result is the same)

That said, it would be worth finding out the information and making sure it actually is your account and not an error.
posted by wierdo at 5:56 AM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, and to answer the actual question posed in the title, if a CRA claims you have an account you actually don't have, you start with their dispute process and go from there. Most or all of them now have a nice link on the online version you can start with. If they prove difficult, that's when you start sending snail mail.
posted by wierdo at 5:58 AM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Even if I already have several other credit cards that are in good standing and have been for a few years?

Older is better. How much better is unknowable since FICO scoring is a trade secret.

As wierdo says, you can just contest it through the credit reporting agency. It's a supremely perfunctory process; the CRAs just bounce a message over to the reporting firm and they - by all indications - just have automated systems that confirm/deny. But if this is a case where there's an old item that hasn't been reported again after it was closed (does this CRA include a last updated/reported date?) that might wipe it out.

Add me to the "leave it alone" chorus. You may have other accounts but scoring is based (as far as we know) on oldest, so if you have this very old account it possibly lessens the blow if you were to close/replace those other, newer accounts. If it's reporting some 10k+ available credit skewing your used:available ratio in a big way is the only good reason to close it. Supposedly FICO scores an aprox 20-30% utilization of revolving credit as best.
posted by phearlez at 7:45 AM on November 2, 2018

The reason to make sure your account is closed is that you are presumably not monitoring an account you think is closed and dormant accounts are particularly vulnerable to fraud precisely because you're not reviewing a monthly bill. Unless you are desperate to maximize your credit score for a specific purpose (e.g., right before applying for a mortgage), it's worth addressing. But you need to talk to Amex, not the CRA. The reporting, by itself, with nothing adverse on it, is at worst harmless.
posted by praemunire at 8:47 AM on November 2, 2018


As praemunire said, I was worried about potential fraud. I called Amex and they have no record at all of my ever having had this card even though I know I did. They searched against my SSN, nada. That makes no sense to me but I'm just going to drop it, since it seems there isn't a reason to worry about fraud and you've all pointed out that having it on my credit reports may be helpful. Thanks!
posted by sunflower16 at 12:26 PM on November 2, 2018

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