Decided that you need a divorce -- from one of your credit cards?

Closing out a card is not something to be done rashly or sloppily. The right way involves asking the right questions, getting pertinent answers, and making sure that you minimize any damage to your credit score.

Take these steps to cancel a card cleanly, so you won't regret it.

1. Make sure you're canceling for a good reason

Picture showing pretty woman shopping online with credit card
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Cancel a card if you can't control yourself with it.

There are really only two strong reasons to cancel a credit card:

  • If you can’t control your spending with the card.
  • If the card charges an annual fee and you don’t use the card enough to justify paying the fee.

Having the card in your wallet might be helping your credit score. Canceling could hurt your score.

2. Don't let rewards die with the card

Most credit cards have some sort of rewards program. Before you make a move to cancel, make sure you take advantage of any remaining rewards as best you can.

Check your card’s website for the details on how to redeem — and don’t cancel until you’ve milked the rewards dry.

The best cash-back cards have the easiest redemption features.

3. Pay off your balance

Close-up of credit card statement with focus on Total Amount Due
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Be sure that your balance is paid off before you attempt to close out a card.

Pay your card’s balance in full before canceling.

Failing to do that might be a negative for your credit score.

And if you imagine that closing the account will let you off the hook for whatever you owe on the card — well, what fantasy world do you live in?

4. Turn off automatic payments

Make sure to cancel any automatic charges and preapproved payments linked to the card.

If a merchant later tries to charge your closed account and the transaction doesn't go through, it could hurt your credit score. Credit bureaus don’t like to see missed payments and late fees, and neither should you.

5. Make a goodbye phone call

Call the phone number on the credit card and let customer service know that you’re ready to cancel.

Most of the time, the customer service agent will agree to close your account without hassle. But if the associate tries to convince you to stay, hold firm.

You’ve already weighed the pros and cons, so by this point you should feel confident that canceling is the right decision for you.

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