Credit Card Expiring? Here's What to Expect

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  • Credit cards expire for a variety of reasons, including fraud protection, wear and tear, and technology upgrades.
  • Only the physical card expires; your actual card account isn't affected.
  • When you get your new card, activate the card first, then update any digital wallets or store accounts where you have the card information saved.

What do credit cards and eggs have in common?

Every time you use your credit cards for an online purchase you need to enter a few common pieces of information. This includes the card number, the card verification code (CVC), and the expiration date.

While those first two numbers make perfect sense -- you need to identify the account, and security codes add a layer of protection -- that last bit may be confusing. After all, your card isn't a carton of eggs. So why does it have an expiration date?

Why credit cards expire

There are a few reasons credit cards expire. For one thing, having an expiration date printed on your card acts like another type of security PIN. If a thief has your card number but doesn't know the expiration date, they'll have a much harder time using your card.

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Another important reason credit cards expire is that they can simply wear out. Not so long ago, using your credit card involved sliding a magnetic strip through a card reader. This was hard on the card, and over time the card could become worn and strip damaged.

These days, with the advent of contactless payments and the rise of online shopping, your card may not get nearly as much wear and tear. But even just sitting in your wallet can cause damage over time.

And speaking of new technologies -- that's another reason you may want to replace your card every few years. Technologies change. Magnetic strips get replaced by EMV chips, and chips get augmented with NFC readers. Having a card with the latest technology can make your life much easier.

Steps to take when your card expires

It's important to note that credit card expiration dates apply only to the physical card itself. Your credit card account isn't closing, nor is your credit card bill or due date affected.

Instead, you simply need a new credit card with a new expiration date. Which is easy, since issuers know when your card is about to expire, and the majority of the time they will send you a new card automatically. (If for some reason they don't, you can easily request one through your card account online or in the app.)

Often, the only thing that will change will be the expiration date. Unless you've reported a case of card fraud, your credit card number will typically remain the same even after the card expires.

Once the new card arrives, you'll activate it in your account. Then, you'll need to update the expiration date anywhere you store your card information. For example, if your card data is saved to your Amazon account, you may need to update the expiration date in your account.

What to do with your old cards

Perhaps the most annoying part of having a credit card expire is you need to figure out what to do with the old one. For your own security, don't just throw it away -- especially if your credit card number hasn't changed.

If you have a basic plastic card, you can take strong scissors or snips to it and cut it into a hundred (or so) pieces. Make sure to really destroy the magnetic strip and the EMV chip.

For metal credit cards, however, scissors won't cut it -- literally. If you have metal shears, you can try to DIY (Destroy It Yourself) your old cards. Alternatively, you can typically mail the old card to your issuer and let them handle the disposal.

Do not put credit cards into a household paper shredder unless you want an excuse to buy a new shredder. This goes double for metal cards! Also, do not try to melt them. Plastic cards will release toxic fumes, and most metals won't reach melting temperature in a household fireplace.

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