With identity theft and fraud as prevalent as they are, it is important to know what to do with expired credit cards. When you receive a replacement card for one of your accounts in the mail, don’t just stash your old one in your desk drawer. Instead, use these tips on how to destroy a credit card the right way.
A better question might be, why shouldn’t you destroy your old cards? The expired cards sitting in your desk drawer aren’t doing you any good. They do, however, represent a potential fraud risk. When you receive a replacement card in the mail, your expiry date and security code change, but your account number does not. Identity thieves often piece together your personal information from a variety of sources and an old card will give them all they need to get started: your full legal name and an existing account number.
What’s more, since credit cards tend to be valid for 3–5-year terms, a new expiration date is not difficult to guess. And although the security code on the back of your card does provide your account with an extra layer of protection, not all online retailers ask for them.
The methods below describing how to destroy credit cards take only take moments and are easy identity theft prevention habits worth adopting.
The fastest way to destroy an old card is with a cross-cut shredder specifically designed to cut credit cards. If you shop for a shredder, you will notice that even modestly priced ones have this ability. If your shredder has this feature, go ahead and shred your swipe-only cards.
If your expired credit card has a chip—the metallic square you tap or dip into a card reader at a retail point of sale—shred it only if your machine is equipped to also shred CDs. Otherwise, shredding the chip could damage the mechanism.
High-quality shredders that can handle both credit cards and CDs (and therefore chipped cards) are available in stores and online for less than $60.
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If you don’t have a shredder to destroy your cards, you can still cut up them up effectively with a pair of scissors. The key to destroying an old credit card using scissors is to focus your cuts where the sensitive personal information is. Disassociate your name with the numbers on your card by slicing through both printed areas horizontally, then by chopping through each letter and digit vertically as well. This detailed approach isn’t as time-consuming as it sounds, and it is sure to frustrate a fraudster’s attempts to launch a shopping spree on your dime.
Once you’ve destroyed your old card properly, it would be wise not to dispose of the fragments in a single trash pick-up. Dumpster divers looking to steal personal information will take advantage of any remnant they can find. You may be surprised at the effort they will expend on piecing together even basic information like what financial institutions you use, who your credit card issuers are, and what your account numbers might be. Thwart them by placing the pieces in different bags and disposing of them over a few weeks.
Some card companies issue metal cards that are meant to offer additional durability. Two examples are Chase Sapphire Visa and Amazon Prime Visa.
Many cardholders wonder how to dispose of metal credit cards and don’t realize that their card issuers will do this safely for you for free. Simply call the issuer of your metal card and ask them for a prepaid mailing envelope.
Magnetic strips and chips are designed to facilitate quick credit card processing, so they are encoded with all the data you can read on the card plus information about the kind of transactions the card can be used for. Therefore, if you fail to destroy the magnet and chip, you could become a victim of credit card fraud even if you have cut up your name and account number properly.
You can demagnetize the strip by slowly running a strong magnet along it (even a fridge magnet will do). After doing so, you should still cut through the strip as an added precaution. If you want to ensure your old chip is thoroughly disabled, strike it with a hammer.
Without question, you should destroy cards and throw them away; do not recycle them. While recycling a card would mean it doesn’t go to a landfill, it would instead go to a plant where it would be placed onto a conveyor belt and sorted by human hands. Assuming that recycling plant workers won’t steal your personal information is too much like tempting fate.
Even if you destroy all your credit cards correctly, identity thieves can get all they need from sorting through your trash and recycling bins for old bills. These readily furnish your full legal name, address, account numbers, and spending habits. Go paperless whenever you can, and if you do have paper bills that you wish to clear out, shred the documents.
Anyone who has experienced identity theft will tell you that it is a headache that just keeps on giving. Save yourself time and stress by adopting these common-sense habits to protect your personal information.
Want to learn more about credit cards and how to use them to your advantage? Read these useful articles from our blog.