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How to Properly Dispose of a Credit Card

Getting rid of an old credit card takes more than just cutting it in half and throwing it in the garbage.
Credit: Bet_Noire
(Credit: Thinkstock)

Disposing of unwanted items in our lives often means simply throwing them into the garbage or recycling bin — or, if they’re still useful, giving them away. It’s different with old credit cards and other payment cards, which should be destroyed so nobody can use them fraudulently.

But how to destroy a payment card properly is not obvious, especially with new metal credit cards. Here’s how to get rid of an old card — no burning or burying required.

First, contact the issuer

If closing the account is your goal, you’ll have to call the number on the back of your card and ask to do so — although closing an account may not always be a good idea.

If your card is a rewards card, remember to first redeem points or cash back. Change any automatic payments to a different card, and be sure to pay the final card bill. Skip this step if you’re simply replacing an expired card or one that has been compromised.

Cut up plastic cards

Sturdy scissors and smart trimming will do the job here.

“We recommend that consumers cut through the EMV chip, then further cut the card a few times along the short side, and dispose of the sections in more than one trash bag,” says Sarah Grano, a spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association.

Or feed plastic cards into a paper shredder designed to handle them.

Send back metal cards

Destroying a metal card by yourself is harder and potentially dangerous. Contact your issuer. Typically, you can mail it back for disposal.

For example, when American Express sends a replacement card, it also sends an addressed return envelope to mail back an old metal card for destruction, says Heather Norton, spokeswoman for American Express. Or you can call the number on the back of the card, and American Express will mail you a prepaid envelope, she says.

Check back on your account

Don’t obsess about identity theft of an old credit card. You generally won’t be responsible for fraudulent charges anyway, although you could endure some hassle. Take extra care with debit cards and other plastic where fraud means you might actually be missing money, even if temporarily. It’s a good idea to check your account statement — even your last statement on a closed account — to make sure there’s been no fraud.