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What to do with old credit cards?

Do you have any expired or canceled cards laying around?

Updated

Most of us carry cards in our pockets not even realizing they’ve expired until we get stuck at checkout and look on in embarrassment as the card gets declined. When you receive a new credit card in the mail, you need to dispose of your old one.

To make the changeover work efficiently, your new credit card will be good for use before your old one actually expires. This means that you may start using your new one, but your old one could also be used by someone else if it is not completely destroyed. Remember that even when it is past its expiry date, your old credit card contains all the account information that a thief would need to carry out some serious mischief.

Can I toss my expired credit card into the trash bin?

You can, but it’s not recommended. An expired credit card should never be tossed out as a whole. Many people believe that because a credit card has actually expired they no longer need to treat it with caution, so they throw it into the trash only to become the next identity theft victim.

Credit card thieves and identity theft crooks only need to have your name, your credit card number and the card’s expiry date to make purchases or fake an identity. Even if the card is no longer valid, a good liar can do more than you wish in order to get your private data.

If you dispose of your expired credit card in the right way, you avoid further hassles in the future.

So what would you rather do with your expired credit card?

Why do credit cards expire?

There are several reasons why credit cards expire, for example:

  • Fraud protection. You’ll find that every time you’re trying to pay, aside from the credit card number, your name and CVC number, you are required to input your exipry date as another protection point.
  • Card degradation. If you frequently use your card, it could easily get damaged from all the swiping after a few years.
  • Company branding. It’s common that banks buy other banks. In case another financial institution buys your card provider, they will want to show it on your new credit card.
  • Technology upgrade. Technology moves forward. Once new safety features are implemented, you’ll get to use them on your new credit card.

middle-aged guy thinking about what to do with expired credit card

How to go about destroying your old credit card:

Find a safe method to dispose of your expired or canceled credit card:

  • Scissors. Take a good strong pair of scissors — not the plastic ones your kid has for art and craft. This is like playing rock, paper, scissors. Certain materials defeat other materials, and plastic scissors will not cut plastic credit cards.
  • Horizontally. Make your first cut horizontally straight through the main set of embossed numbers on the front of the card, dividing each one in half.
  • Hologram. Make certain to cut around any entertaining little hologram thingy and keep it for absolutely no good reason.
  • Magnetic strip. Cut diagonally through the magnetic strip.
  • Vertically. Cut the top half vertically at every two to four digits, then do the same with the bottom half.
  • Check. Check you haven’t just destroyed your new card by mistake. This check should really be done at the start.
  • Security code. Find the part that contains the three-digit security code on the reverse and cut that into pieces so it cannot be read or pieced back together.
  • Security chip. Hack through the little security chip diagonally.
  • Check cut pieces. Make sure that none of the pieces contain any information that could mean anything to anyone.
  • Dispose. Dispose of the pieces over a period of time, throwing out a few pieces for the bin men each time they come.

NOTE:

If you own a metal card, the destruction process might be slightly more complicated, but it can be done.

Other ways to dispose of your expired credit card

  • Spread the pieces. Alternatively, take them out when you go into town and spread the pieces over several waste bins in various locations.
  • Find a safe place. If you are the hoarder type, then you can certainly store your expired credit card in a safe place. Whether you freeze it, dig a hole in the garden and bury it, sew it into your clothes or hang it up as a wall ornament is entirely up to you.
  • Craft. Crafty people have yet another option to dispose of their expired credit cards, they can join the wicked world of credit card art and design their own crazy, sexy, cool piece of art, made of expired credit cards.

A word of warning: Unless you own a professional shredding company with industrial shredders, be careful about putting your old credit card through a shredding machine, unless it is specifically advertised as being capable of mincing credit cards. This is the very easiest way to break a home shredder, then you will have to use your new credit card to buy another.

How to pick a good replacement card?

Consider what you need most. If you’re paying high interest on your existing credit card — a long 0% intro APR credit card could be a good choice. If you’re looking to earn rewards on everyday spending, cashback cards are typically best.

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0
Get 3% cash back on groceries on up to $6,000 annually (then 1%) with no annual fee. This is a simple and effective rewards card. Rates & fees
Chase Freedom Flex℠
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
$0
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
15.99% to 22.99% variable
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $$1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
N/A
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0
An impressive 18 months intro APR on balance transfers and purchases, as well as no annual fee make this one of the top 0% APR cards available.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$95
Perfect for families: Get up to 6% on everyday purchases and a welcome offer worth $250. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Rates & fees
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Bottom line

When your card expires or when you no longer want to keep it, make sure you destroy any information on the card. This will prevent anyone else from using the card’s information to commit identity theft or credit card fraud.

Once you got that out of the way, consider a better replacement card that fits your needs.

Images: Shutterstock

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