I Got My First Credit Card 16 Years Ago. Here's Why I Still Have It in My Wallet

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  • Your payment history, how much available credit you use, and how long you've had credit are some important factors that make up your credit score.  
  • Keeping your oldest credit card account open could boost your credit.
  • If your old credit card has an annual fee you don’t want to pay, see if you can simply downgrade the card.

Keeping your oldest credit card account open could boost your credit score.

Credit cards are a financial tool that can make it easier to pay for purchases. If you make the right moves, they can also help you build credit. I got my first credit card 16 years ago to establish credit. While this card is no longer the primary credit card I use, I still carry it in my wallet. Find out why it's a good idea to keep an older credit card around: 

I was lucky enough to learn a bit about personal finance before graduating high school. I knew it would be beneficial to get a credit card -- as long as I used it with care. So I opened my first credit card before I started college. I was cautious with this card and only charged it for small purchases and paid my bills in full every month.

The first card I got didn't have any benefits, and it didn't offer rewards. But it had no annual fee, and it helped me learn how to use a credit card responsibly. Sixteen years later, I still keep that credit card account open to help maintain my credit score.  

Your credit score can impact your financial future 

Your credit score is essential, and it can determine which financial opportunities you're eligible for in life. While it would be nice not to have to worry about a credit score at all, the truth is most consumers need to keep an eye on their credit. 

You can more easily qualify for rewards credit cards, car loans, or other loans with an excellent credit score. If you have a poor score or little to no credit, you may struggle to qualify for a loan or may have to settle for a loan with a higher interest rate or other unattractive terms.  

As it turns out, opening my first credit card shortly after turning 18 and using it with care paid off. Since I had already established credit and had good credit history, I was able to qualify for a 0% auto loan as a sophomore in college. I happily drove that car for over a decade. 

Keeping an older credit card account open is a smart idea

Several factors make up your credit score. Keeping an older credit card around can help you boost your credit score. Here are three reasons why you may want to do this: 

  • Payment history: Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO credit score. Paying your bills on time can positively impact your credit score. Regularly charging a small amount of money to an older card and paying off the balance in full can help you keep the account active and influence your overall credit payment history. 
  • Credit utilization: Your credit utilization makes up 30% of your FICO score. Your credit utilization ratio is how much available credit you use. Having a lower credit utilization ratio, or using less of your available credit is best. Having an older credit card account open can increase the total available credit you have and in turn, can help you maintain a lower credit utilization ratio. 
  • Length of credit history: The length of your credit history is a smaller credit score factor, but it's still important. This factor makes up 15% of your FICO credit score. Having an older account on your credit report could improve your credit score because it shows you've had credit for a longer period of time. 

Downgrade older cards with an annual fee  

Do you have a card with an annual fee that you no longer plan to use? You can contact your credit card issuer and ask them to downgrade the account to a card with no annual fee. Doing this will keep your account open and active so your account history is still there. 

Don't rush to get rid of an older credit card. If you still have your first credit card, you may want to keep the account open. It could help you improve your credit score and help you qualify for better financial opportunities in the future. 

If you're in the market for a new credit card, check out our list of the best credit cards to learn more. 

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