Notify card issuer immediately if accountholder dies

It prevents new charges and identity theft


Credit Wise
Credit Wise columnist Kevin Weeks
With more than 20 years experience in the nonprofit credit counseling industry, Kevin Weeks joined the Financial Counseling Association of America (, @TrustFCAA) as its president Dec. 1, 2014. Weeks has extensive knowledge of both the credit counseling industry and the FCAA organization, having served in leadership positions for three of its member agencies and on the FCAA board of directors. In addition, Weeks is working with FCAA members to help develop a long-term solution to the student loan crisis through the website Weeks holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration, management information systems from Salem State University.

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Question for the expert Dear Credit Wise,
My uncle died recently. Should I notify Discover Card? I do not think there was a balance on the account. Can I do this online? -- Barbara

Answer for the expert Dear Barbara,
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your uncle. I don't know if you are your uncle's executor of if you are just a concerned family member, but no matter what I applaud your initiative. 

It is always a good idea to notify creditors when a cardholder dies even if there is not a balance due. There are a number of reasons for this. First, when a cardholder dies their account is immediately suspended. This is especially important to anyone who is an authorized user on the account. Once a cardholder dies, their right to use the card is gone as well. If it was a joint account, the account can remain open, but the creditor should still be notified.

Another reason to notify the creditor is to prevent fraudulent charges and identity theft. It is a sad fact that using a dead person's identity is a common practice among identity thieves. 

Unfortunately, you cannot notify the creditor online about your uncle's death; you will have to call Discover. Its page "Closing a Deceased Cardmember's Account" includes the phone number to call, and answers to frequently asked questions. (Other card issuers with online advice on the topic include American Express and Bank of America.) The representative will be able to answer questions you have about any balance due on the account. Be sure to ask if there were recurring charges being made to the card, because those merchants will need to be notified as well. Remember that as soon as you report the death, the card will be deactivated and no new charges will be accepted.

You will not have to provide a death certificate to close the account. This is good news, because there are many places that must be notified that will require a certified copy of the death certificate, including the Social Security Administration, your uncle's banks, company insurance and pension plans, as well as the office of Veteran's Affairs if your uncle was a veteran. 

Be sure you cut up or shred the credit card and properly dispose of it once you have notified the creditor. This will keep it from falling into anyone's hands who might try to use the card.

Be wise with your credit!

See related: Credit card debt after death

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Published: June 20, 2015

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