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July 25, 2004

Learning how to improve and maintain good credit scores is one of the best ways for consumers to increase their bargaining power with banks. "Think about it," says Liz Pulliam Weston, a personal finance columnist for MSN Money and the Los Angeles Times, "those with bad scores get stuck with high rates, egregious fees and poor terms; those with good scores have lenders falling all over themselves to offer the best rates and terms."

Closing a credit card account can never help a credit score, she warns, and may hurt it - particularly if the card is the consumer's oldest account or if its credit limit represents a big chunk of his or her total available credit. That doesn't mean you should never close a credit account - you should just be careful about which ones you close, and when.

People with high scores and plenty of other credit cards might be able to take the hit from closing an old or high-limit card. Those with thinner, younger or more troubled credit histories, on the other hand, might consider the annual fee on an older, high-limit card an investment in their future creditworthiness.


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