How to Properly Dispose of a Credit Card

CardRates.com Staff • December 5, 2016

Sometimes, it’s time to say goodbye to your old trusty credit card. One reason might be that you’ve closed the account, maybe after transferring the balance to another credit card. Perhaps your spouse lost a copy of the credit card and you’ve ordered replacement cards.

The card might be physically damaged or the magnetic strip might no longer work. It’s possible you’ve ordered a replacement card because your name has changed, or your credit card company is replacing your card because it has suffered a security breach or it has experienced a name change.

Other motivations include:

  • You’ve upgraded your card from regular to gold or platinum.
  • Someone has stolen your identity.
  • You’ve sworn off credit cards.
  • You’re about to start your prison term or are being extradited out of the country.

Whatever the reason, there are a few different ways to get rid of your credit card correctly.

The right ways to dispose of a credit card

First, make sure you’ve alerted the credit card company and that the card you are about to destroy is the right one. You can shred the card in a paper shredder that is designed to handle credit cards, or you can demagnetize and cut up the card. This requires you to degauss the magnetic strip by running the card under a magnet.

Then, slice the card lengthwise through the magnetic strip and crosscut each half of the card into six segments. You can also cut the card on the diagonal. It’s a good idea to dispose of each piece in a separate location.

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Don’t burn credit cards!

The wrong ways to dispose of a credit card

  • Do not burn the card. Burning plastic releases carbon monoxide, dioxins and furans, all of which can cause serious medical problems (including death) if you inhale too much of them.
  • Don’t simply cut it in half — a thief could reconstruct it.
  • Don’t ask someone else to dispose of it for you.
  • Don’t mail it back to the credit card company.

What if my card was stolen?

You can’t cut up a stolen card, but a stolen card can cut up your finances. In the hands of a thief, your card can be charged up to its limit.

You ultimately are not responsible for charges on a stolen card in excess of $50, but if you don’t promptly report the theft, your credit report may be updated with negative information.

At that point, you may want to consider using a credit repair company to help you clean up the mess. Otherwise, it might take months to dispute the information and recover your credit rating.

Photo credit: AARP, Jim B. Cudney

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

About the Author

CardRates.com Staff

This article was contributed by one or more members of the CardRates.com editorial staff. To connect with our writers, editors, and other personal finance experts, please visit our Twitter, Google+ or Contact Us page.