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How to dispose of credit cards

Make sure you destroy your cards properly to avoid fraud

Summary

There are a few different ways to dispose of credit cards. Find out now the quickest way to destroy whatever type of card you might have.

 

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If you’ve canceled a credit card or received a replacement for one that expired and you need to dispose of it, never throw it in the nearest trash can.

That’s practically asking a dumpster-divin’ fraudster to steal your information – and possibly your identity.

Instead, make sure you destroy that card so that no one will ever be able to even piece it together. But before you get out that jackhammer or chainsaw to destroy it, hang on.

There are different ways to dispose of different kinds of cards, so keep reading to find out the best way to make yours disappear.

How to destroy a plastic credit card

There are a few ways to get rid of an old plastic credit card. Follow these steps:

  • The easiest way is to simply get a pair of sharp scissors and cut it up into very small pieces – make sure you snip through your signature and if there’s an RFID chip, slice through that, too.
  • Make sure you deactivate the card’s metal strip – run a strong magnet over the strip to scramble the data or just cut it up into tiny pieces.
  • Once you’ve cut up the card you might want to bag the pieces separately as an extra precaution against someone rifling through your trash and piecing it together to get your credit card number.
  • That might sound a bit paranoid, but with credit card fraud on the rise it’s worth taking extra precautions with your sensitive financial information.
  • Another way to destroy an old plastic credit card is to burn it, though that method isn’t environmentally friendly and the fumes would be pretty toxic. But if you have a fireplace, use that – or take your old, cut-up cards to your next bonfire.

If you’re looking to let someone else handle this task and you’re willing to go into a bank branch, just hand the old card to a teller and let them know you want it gone.

How to dispose of a metal credit card

Don’t use the methods above to destroy a metal credit card – it’s more difficult and it could be unsafe. That said, if you happen to have a pair of tin snips you might be able to cut through it safely. Follow these steps to dispose of a metal card:

  • Call your issuer and find out what its policy is for sending back metal cards. For example, American Express sends cardholders an addressed return envelope to send back their old cards when they receive a new card.
  • You can also hand in your old metal card at one of your issuer’s branches.

Review your closed account statement

No matter which method you use to destroy your old credit cards, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your account to ensure you haven’t been a victim of fraud. Make sure your last statement on that card matches your activity for the month.

Think twice before you close accounts

If you’re receiving a replacement card, have fun destroying the old one.

But if you’re closing the account yourself, you might want to think twice. Closing a card lowers your overall available credit, which could result in your having a higher credit utilization, and that might ding your score.

If you’re sure you want to close an account, however, there are some important steps to take:

  • Call the issuer (look for the number on the back of your card) and ask to close the account.
  • Transfer any automatic payments on that card to another card.
  • Pay your final bill in full for the card you want to cancel.
  • Redeem all your points or cash back rewards before you cancel.
  • Destroy the card using one of the methods above.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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