5 Tips for Destroying Old Credit Cards

Sep 27, 2017

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Whether you’ve realized that it’s time to look for a new credit card or you’re worried that your current card may have been compromised online, you’re going to need to dispose of what’s been in your wallet for the past few years. Getting rid of a credit card isn’t as simple as finding a pair of scissors, though. Desperate thieves don’t mind digging through trashcans (they do it all the time in the alleyway beside my apartment in Chicago) if that work leads to a profitable prize: a name, a 16-digit number and an expiration date. So what should you do? Consider these five tips to make sure your old credit card won’t come back to life to haunt your personal finances.

1. Put your issuer to work.

If you've been using a metallic credit card, call the 800 number for proper disposal.
If you’ve been using a metallic credit card, call the 800 number for proper disposal.

If you’re using a metallic card, this first step is for you. If you’re still counting on the power of traditional plastic, move on to number two. Metallic cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card are designed to be more durable than standard plastic, which means some of the tips below won’t apply. So, you may want to consider calling the 800 number on the back of the card. I recommend taking advantage of the ability to send your card in and let your issuer do the destroying for you.

2. Don’t burn it.

Keep your lighter away from your credit card, or you'll pay for it with your health.
Keep your lighter away from your credit card, or you’ll pay for it with your health. Image by Jens Verhoeven/EyeEm via Getty Images.

Yes, fire can melt your credit card. Unfortunately, it can also damage your health. I’m no chemical expert, but the people at MIT School of Engineering are, and they warn that burning plastic can release hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, furans and a number of other toxins that will do your body no good.

3. Demagnetize the strip.

Now that you’ve moved away from the fireplace, move somewhere cooler and look for a magnet on your refrigerator. Since plenty of merchants still haven’t embraced EMV chip technology, it’s a wise move to run a magnet along the strip on the back of the card to make sure the swiping capability is useless.

4. Hack away.

While some shredders can handle credit cards, scissors can often be the best tool.
While some shredders can handle credit cards, scissors can often be the best tool.

Of course, the real value of your credit card is online, where someone with bad intentions won’t need to show an ID. With that in mind, it’s time to find a good pair of scissors. This is not as simple as cutting the card in three or four pieces, either. I recommend some serious slicing and dicing to make any effort to piece the card back together the most frustrating puzzle possible. You can also consider a shredder; some models advertise that they’re designed to dispose of credit cards, too.

5. Divide.

This may sound a bit obsessive, but I recommend separating those tiny pieces of plastic into different trashcans. Rather than including all the puzzle pieces in one bag, spread them out to make sure that even the craftiest thief won’t find them all in one location.

Eliminating your card’s physical footprint isn’t the only work on your agenda. Be sure to update all your auto-pay accounts to avoid missing any payments, too. Of course, while you’re throwing away your credit card, be sure to follow one of the golden rules of TPG: don’t throw away your points.

Do you have any suggestions for making sure that your old credit card completely disappears? Share them in the comments section.

Featured photo by Ken Tannenbaum/ Getty Images.

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