What Should You Do With Old Credit Cards?

Alexandra Leslie • May 24, 2018

 Your credit card has finally expired, or perhaps you or your issuer has decided to close your credit card account. Is it time to toss the old card in the trash? No way!

1. Fraud risks

Saving your old cards or not disposing of them properly can unintentionally open the door to fraud or identity theft.

When your card expires and the credit card company sends your replacement, the new card will usually have the same card numbers – just a different expiration date and security code.

If the old card is found by someone with bad intentions, this person now has your current credit card number.

While they will not have your current card’s expiration date and security code, not all purchases require that information, and it is a lot easier to guess an expiration date than a card number. They may be able to make fraudulent purchases with your card number.

2. Your protection is limited.

Credit card issuers usually offer zero liability for fraudulent credit card purchases, meaning you will get your money back if your card numbers are stolen and purchases are made, but you may not be so lucky with debit card fraud.

Since debit cards function more like cash, issuers cannot always refund unauthorized purchases, especially if it takes you a while to report it. For this reason, always report potentially fraudulent purchases immediately.

3. If your card is expiring…

If you are keeping your credit card account open, but the card is simply expiring soon, hang on to your current card until your replacement card comes.

Most issuers will proactively send you a replacement card several weeks in advance of the expiration so you are never without a valid card.

Once your new card has arrived, you can begin using it as soon as you activate it. Then it is time to destroy the old card.

“To avoid any risk, you must

securely destroy the card.”

4. If you have closed the account…

Alternatively, if you have cancelled the credit card, there is no need to hang on to it. You can and should destroy the card immediately.

5. How to destroy your credit card

To avoid any risk of your credit card numbers being stolen and used for fraudulent transactions, you must securely destroy the card in a way that nobody can piece it back together.

There are several ways to do this:

  •  Shred it. Many home shredding machines have slots for cards.
  • Cut it. If you do not want to burn your card and do not have access to a shredder, you can cut it up with scissors. Just make sure to cut it into many tiny bits, and consider throwing the pieces away in different trash bags to lessen the chance of someone piecing it all back together.
  • Do not burn it. Burning plastic releases hydrogen cyanide which, if you inhale enough of it, can seriously harm or kill you.

Some people like to take the extra precaution of demagnetizing the card before destroying it just to ensure there is no data left on the card. To do this, simply rub a magnet against the card several times.

6. Remember to update auto-payments.

Do you have any bills that are automatically charged that old credit card each month? Make sure to update your auto-pay settings to make sure you do not miss any payments due to an expired card.

Photo: behappyberich.wordpress.com

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

Alexandra Leslie

Since receiving Bachelor's degrees in Political Science and Psychology, Alexandra enjoys studying socioeconomic factors in business, behavior and politics. When she isn't gathering intel on the latest trends and experts in business and finance, you can find her at the gym, searching for gluten-free goodies on Pinterest or enjoying a night out with friends.