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Don’t You Just Love Credit Cards?

July 21, 2023

I received a new credit card in the mail today. Turns out, my current one is set to expire. I am quite pleased with my credit card company because they sent it preemptively – I didn’t need to think about ordering a new card, and now there is no concern over being without a credit card. Good, right? Well, not so fast. A few years ago, my credit card carrier switched to those nifty metal cards. You see, as technology advances, credit cards have evolved beyond their traditional plastic forms. The metal credit card, a popular, new variation on the old theme, offers durability and a sleek design. I love it: I love the weight of the card, as if the weight implies significance when being used; I love its resistance to bending, and for what it’s worth, I enjoy the metal design more than the plastic version. But now, I am stuck with an expired card that I do not know how to destroy.

If you are like me, when it comes to disposing of an old or expired metal credit card, you might wonder how to ensure your personal information remains secure. The kitchen scissors, unfortunately, won’t cut it, literally. After some research, I can offer you a few tips and tricks on safely handling personal data and metal credit cards.

The first step is to verify the card status prior to destroying the card: ensure that the card is no longer active, has expired, or has been reported lost or stolen. Destroying an active card by accident could have unintended consequences. And who wants to spend all day on the phone with a customer service representative explaining that you accidentally cut the wrong card? Whoops!

Another preparatory option is to contact the issuer. If you have any concerns about the disposal process, contacting your card company is a good idea. They can provide guidance specific to your card and address any concerns you may have.

Once you have clearance to begin, it’s time to ‘DIY’ this credit card destruction. Here are some methods to consider:

Shears, Tin Snips, or Bolt Cutters: Cut the card into multiple pieces using heavy-duty scissors or metal shears. Make sure to cut through the chip and magnetic strip to render them unusable.

Hammer and Anvil: Yes, my research came up with an anvil (although I’m not sure I’ve seen one in recent years). Place the metal card on a sturdy surface, such as an anvil or concrete floor, and strike it firmly with a hammer until it is sufficiently damaged. Aim for complete destruction of the chip and magnetic strip.

Once done, remember to separate the destroyed pieces of the credit card before disposing of them in separate bins or recycling facilities. By taking these extra steps, you ensure that even if someone attempts to retrieve the pieces, ideally, they won't be able to reconstruct the card or access your sensitive information.

Mail the card back to the issuer: Believe it or not, I called my credit card company to see what they recommend. They suggested sending the card back to the issuer. In fact, when the new card is sent out, many companies will provide an addressed, pre-paid envelope for disposal of the previous card.

For full disclosure, I chose Option 3. After speaking with my credit card issuer, they confirmed that my old card was rendered unusable after I activated the new card. I felt more confident that they would safely handle the disposal of my metal card. And honestly, I didn’t have a spare anvil on hand.

After the card has been destroyed, you can also take it a step further by reviewing any digital information that your old card is affiliated with. Consider the following:

Destroy any associated paper documents, such as credit card statements or receipts, by using a cross-cut shredder so that any sensitive information is rendered unreadable. If you have linked your credit card to online accounts, consider removing the card details from your payment profiles. Delete any saved card information from e-commerce websites or digital wallet applications. And finally, regularly review your credit card statements and monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. Report any unauthorized transactions immediately to your card issuer.

As a responsible credit card user, taking the time to properly dispose of old or expired credit cards demonstrates your commitment to maintaining your privacy and protecting yourself from identity theft. Stay vigilant, be cautious, and make informed decisions regarding the safe disposal of your credit cards.