Here's What to Do With Old, Expired Credit Cards

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  • Expired credit cards need to be disposed of properly so that no one gets their hands on your card information.
  • Dispose of plastic credit cards by demagnetizing them, destroying the chip, cutting them up, and throwing away the pieces separately.
  • Mail metal credit cards back to the card issuer.

Nothing lasts forever, and that includes your credit cards.

Credit cards are always issued with an expiration date. Before your credit card expires, the card issuer will send a fresh new one to your mailing address. Most card issuers do this about a month or two before the card's expiration date. Once you have your new card and activate it, you can start using it.

That still leaves you with an expired credit card, and this isn't something you should just throw in the trash. Your new credit card will have the same card number as the old one, so that you don't need to update your payment information every time you get a new card. But this also means if someone digs through your trash and gets your old card, you could become a victim of credit card fraud. That's a common crime, with nearly 400,000 credit card fraud reports in 2021.

So, what's the right way to handle old, expired credit cards? That depends on whether it's a plastic card or a metal card.

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What to do with expired plastic credit cards

You can dispose of plastic credit cards yourself with a few household items. To start, here's how to destroy the card:

  • Demagnetize the card. Slowly run a magnet along the card's magnetic strip, as this strip contains account information. A stronger magnet is the best option, but you could use a fridge magnet in a pinch.
  • Destroy the chip. The chip in your credit card also stores information, so you need to destroy it. You could do this with a hammer, scissors, or anything else you have on hand.
  • Cut up the card. Grab a pair of scissors and cut the card into several pieces. Make sure that no piece contains more than a few numbers in a row. The smaller you cut up your card, the better.

Take the pieces of your old card, divide them up, and throw them away separately. If anyone goes through your trash, they'll only get a fragment of your card and won't be able to piece it back together.

Another way to dispose of plastic credit cards is a paper shredder, as many of these also shred credit cards. If you have one, or have access to one at your work, you could use it to quickly destroy your old credit cards.

What to do with expired metal credit cards

Lots of people love the look of metal credit cards, but there is one area where they're more inconvenient than plastic cards. It's much harder to dispose of metal credit cards yourself.

The best way to dispose of a metal credit card is to mail it back to the card issuer. When your card issuer sends you a new card, it will also include a prepaid mailing envelope. Use this envelope to mail back your expired credit card, and the card issuer will take it from there.

If you don't get a prepaid mailing envelope, contact your card issuer to ask for one. Or, if your card issuer has any physical branches in your area, you could visit one and drop off your old card.

It's also possible to destroy an old metal credit card at home. You'll still need to demagnetize it by running a magnet over the magnetic strip. To cut it up, you'll likely need metal shears.

Disposing of expired credit cards takes a little time, but it's an important precaution to protect yourself from identity theft. By doing this correctly, you'll prevent crooks from getting their hands on your credit card number.

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