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Credit Cards

What Should You Do With Old Credit Cards?

Updated Jun 16, 2023   |   3-min read

Do you have old credit cards you no longer use, credit cards for accounts you have closed, or expired credit cards lying around the house? These cards, as much as the cards in your wallet, can put you at risk for identity theft. Even worse than leaving them lying around the house, however, is just throwing them in the garbage.

Some identity thieves sift through garbage looking for information like social security numbers and credit account information. Even old credit cards you no longer use can get in the wrong hands and damage your credit.

Here are a few safer ways to get rid of your old credit cards.

Cut Your Credit Cards

Cutting your credit cards with scissors is okay, but there’s an especially thorough way of making the cuts. To safely cut your card, you need to make sure to separate the four sections of numbers and then cut those sections into six different pieces. Meaning your actual credit card number should be cut into 24 pieces. Then make sure to cut your signature and name into separate pieces as well.

Use a Shredder

To be really safe, try shredding all documents with account information such as monthly billing statements. You can also shred your old credit cards with a shredder that can handle plastic in addition to paper. These shredders are twice as expensive as a basic shredder, but they are still an inexpensive investment in protecting your credit and identity.

Deactivate Magnetic Strips and Chips

Before shredding or cutting your card, you should also take a little extra care to deactivate the magnetic strip and crush the RFID chip in the card if it has one. Running a strong magnet back and forth across the strip will deactivate the information it contains. Crush the RFID chip with a hammer.

One Piece in One Bag

Even after using all of these tips and tricks, it is possible for a persistent thief to find and piece together your old credit cards. To add an extra level of security, don’t put all of the pieces in one trash bag. It may take a few weeks to send all of the pieces to the dump, but you’ll guarantee that nobody will be able to put the credit card number back together.

Don’t Recycle

Some people hold the mistaken belief that throwing their old credit cards in the recycling bin is safer than throwing them in the garbage. What you might not know is that recycled materials all pass down a conveyor belt where workers pick out non-recyclable products. This means your credit card could still get into the hands of an identity thief.

Do you have an old metal credit card? If so, find out how to destroy a metal credit card.