What Happens When Your Credit Card Expires?

Man Holding Credit Card And Using Cell Phone holding credit card with shopping online

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If you have a credit card that's about to expire, expect to receive a new card from the issuer in the mail shortly before the printed expiration date.

Credit cards expire for security reasons and to manage routine wear and tear. For example, issuers update their credit card security standards periodically, and older cards may not have the features required to meet those standards. Over time, credit cards also encounter issues such as faded account numbers and damage to the magnetic stripe that can make them harder to use.

Here are the basics to know about expired credit cards.

A New Card Will Arrive in the Mail

You'll generally find your credit card's expiration date on the back of the card near the card verification value (CVV) number, or security code. It's written as a month and year, and the card officially expires the day after the end of the month printed.

Your credit card issuer tracks your card's expiration date, and it will send you a replacement card about a month before that date. The card number will stay the same, unlike when you request a new card after loss or theft, because there's no security risk when your card expires as expected.

The expiration date and CVV on the new card, however, will change. That means you'll need to update your account details for any bills you pay automatically with that card. More on how to do that below.

Review the Terms and Activate Your New Card

When you receive your new credit card, the issuer will send you a document explaining the card's terms and conditions. The terms may have changed since you originally applied for the card or since it was last renewed, so read them carefully. Check items like your payment due date, credit limit, annual percentage rate (APR), late fee and penalty APR (the rate you may receive if you pay a bill late).

When you're ready, activate the card before using it. You can do so over the phone, in the issuer's mobile app or on its website.

Update Your Bills on Autopay

Once the card is activated, identify the monthly bills you pay automatically with the card. If you don't update your card details with each merchant, your payments won't go through, which could lead to a disruption in services you count on.

Take a look at your previous month's statement and note which bills are currently on autopay. Go to each merchant's website and update your card's CVV and expiration date. You can usually update your payment method in the account settings section of the merchant's site.

Shred or Mail Back Your Old Card

Because your card number won't change when you receive a new one, it's important to properly dispose of the old card. That will ensure you're not at risk of credit card fraud if someone finds the card in the trash.

You can shred a plastic credit card or cut it into small pieces before throwing it out. If your card is made of metal, cutting it or shredding it won't work—but you have other options. Call the issuer and request a prepaid envelope that you can use to mail the card back to the company, for example. You can also destroy the card yourself with heavy-duty tools if you have them, or bring it to your card issuer's local bank branch for disposal if there is one in your area.

Handling an Expired Credit Card

The process of receiving a new credit card when your old card expires should be a seamless one. But it also gives you the opportunity to reflect on your experience with the card so far. Are you making the most of any rewards or benefits it comes with? Has it lain unused in your wallet for months?

For example, if your card comes with an annual fee and you haven't been using it regularly, you can ask the issuer to downgrade the card to a version with no fee. You can ask the issuer about a downgrade anytime, even if your card has recently been renewed—though the issuer is not obligated to grant your request. Closing a credit card altogether will likely affect your credit score, so weigh the risks and benefits of doing so.

Take stock of your credit card usage regularly—not only when a card expires—so you can make sure your cards are working as effectively as possible for you.