What to do with expired credit cards
The safest thing you can do with an old credit card is destroy it. So get your scissors and follow the 4 quick steps below.
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All credit cards eventually expire. The month and year that it expires is printed on the front of your card and your bank will usually send you a replacement card before this date. But what should you do with your old card? Here's how to safely dispose of your credit card – plus answers to other frequently asked questions about credit card expiry.
What to do with your old credit card
Once you've activated the replacement card, you can get rid of your old card. But don't throw it straight into the bin, because someone could find it.
If that happens, they usually wouldn't be able to use the expired card for new transactions. What they could do, though, is use the personal information listed on the card or the data stored in the card's magnetic strip for identity fraud. So you should destroy the old card before throwing it out.
How to destroy your expired credit card
Here are the steps you can take to safely dispose of your expired credit card:
- Cut your card horizontally. Use a strong pair of scissors to cut through your card lengthways. Make sure you cut through the account number, your signature on the back and the magnetic strip (which contains your personal information).
- Cut your card vertically. Cut the pieces of your card from top to bottom, with space between the cuts at every 2-4 digits.
- Cut through the CVV code. Your CVV number (or security code) is 3- or 4-digits on your card that you usually need to enter when you shop online. Find this part of your card and cut it into small pieces so that it can't be read or put back together.
- Destroy the chip. This is the silver or gold square chip that's usually found on the side of your card. You can cut this up with scissors (or smash it with a hammer if you want to have some fun).
Once you've cut up your card so that the pieces can't be put back together, you can dispose of the card. You should throw the separate fragments away in a few different bins so that the pieces can't be recovered and put back together.
Are credit cards recyclable?
Most credit cards are not recyclable because they are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a type of plastic that is difficult to recycle.
So if you put a regular credit card (or cut-up pieces of a credit card) into your recycling bin, it will be considered as "contaminated recycling" and could end up in landfill.
The good news is that there is some change happening in this space. For example, TerraCycle Australia offers a Plastic Cards Zero Waste Box that can recycle credit cards, debit cards, gift cards and other plastic cards. The prices for these boxes start at $193, making it an option that's more suited to community centres or organisations than individuals.
More sustainable and recyclable cards are also starting to become available. For example:
- Mastercard has a worldwide sustainability initiative that includes producing cards that are recyclable, recycled and/or created from bio-sourced materials.
- American Express gives card members reply-paid envelopes so they can return a metal card once it has expired.
- Fintech company Hay offers a payment card that is made of 85% biodegradable material.
- The MoneyMe Freestyle Virtual Mastercard is a digital card that's added to your mobile wallet so you can pay from your phone or other device, without adding a plastic card to your physical wallet.
These are just a handful of examples that show card recycling could be easier in the future. For now, focus on cutting up the details on your old card and putting it in the bin, or into a TerraCycle Zero Waste Plastic Cards Box if you can get one in your area.
Frequently asked questions about expired credit cards
When does my credit card expire?
Your credit card expiry will be listed as a month and a year on the front of your credit card. Let's say that your expiry date is 05/2024, your card would expire at the end of May 2024.
Can I use my credit card after it has expired?
No, you can't use your credit card after its expiry. If you do, your transaction will be declined. You should receive a replacement card that you can activate and use before your old card expires.
Will my new credit card have the same numbers?
If your card has expired, your replacement credit card should have the same account number and name printed on the front but it will have a different expiration date and security CVV number. This is why you'll need to update any direct debits with your new card information once it's been activated.
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