Nothing lasts forever—especially not credit cards. Here’s what any credit cardholder should know about credit card expiration dates.
How to Find Your Credit Card Expiration Date
Expiration dates appear on the front or back of a credit card in a two-digit month/year format. Credit cards expire at the end of the month written on the card. For example, a credit card’s expiration date may read as 11/24, which means the card is active until the last day of November 2024. This expiration doesn’t apply to the actual credit account—only the actual piece of plastic. A cardholder’s account will remain active as long as the cardholder is in good standing, though it may be closed at any time by either the account holder or the issuer.
How Credit Card Expiration Dates Are Determined
On average, credit cards expire three years after the card was issued.
What Happens After a Credit Card Expires
After a credit card expires, it will no longer be possible to use it to make purchases—either in-store or online.
Most credit card issuers automatically mail cardholders a replacement card 30 to 60 days before the card’s expiration date. The new card will have a new expiration date and new CVV security code. Unless the account is upgraded or product changed, the credit card number usually stays the same.
An issuer might send a letter asking the cardholder if they’d like to renew. The card issuer has the right to reevaluate an account before they send out a new card. This might happen if the cardholder is in poor standing, in which case the issuer may decide to terminate the relationship (and not send a new card as a result).
Old credit cards should be destroyed or recycled. Some experts recommend shredding old credit cards to protect the credit card number from falling into nefarious hands. Cutting the card into small bits before tossing into the trash works just as well. Recycling the special plastic used for credit cards (called PVC) with a recycler like Earthworks System offers a great way to help keep waste down. Metal cards should be sent back to the bank for recycling in the special envelope that is provided when the new card arrives. You can also request an envelope via phone or online chat.
What to Do When the New Card Arrives
Every new card must be activated by calling a number noted by sticker on the card, by accompanying documentation or by logging in to the associated online account. Ensuring the terms come as expected is important—terms may have been updated since they were last reviewed. Check the card’s APR, payment due dates, credit limit and any associated fees.
Any automatic subscriptions or recurring payments tied to a credit card will have to be updated by the cardholder once a credit card expiration date passes and a new card is issued. Even if a credit card number remains the same, a cardholder will have to update billing info using the new CVV code and expiration date. It may seem like a useless hassle, but credit card expiration dates help all parties involved keep up with the times and ensure financial information remains secure.
Why Credit Cards Expire
It may seem strange to renew a credit card every few years, especially if it hasn’t been wallet-worn, but credit card issuers have a few incentives to keep up with this practice.
- The card may experience normal wear and tear. The magnetic bar on the back of a credit card may rub off over time or become less effective. The card’s plastic may also chip or fall apart. Receiving a new card every few years is a surefire way to prevent any inconvenient purchase disruptions.
- The expiration date is a vital anti-fraud security measure. Combined with the CVV code on the back of a card, the expiration date prevents people who have gained access to only the credit card number from making fraudulent purchases.
- It’s an opportunity for credit card companies to renew their inventory. New card technology like chips or updated card designs, benefit both the issuer and the customer. Both can be sure that the cardholder is using the most up-to-date version of the issuer’s credit cards with maximum security and updated technology.
- It’s a marketing opportunity for the credit card company. Sometimes the card issuer will take it upon themselves to upsell the customer with a fancy upgraded account. They may notify a customer of new deals, which could lead the customer to sign up for an entirely new account in addition to an old one. It’s also an excuse for the issuer to remind an inactive customer of a forgotten card that an issuer may feel needs more love and affection.
Card expirations give you not only a shiny new card in the mail, they give you protection against hassle and fraud. Be sure to activate your new card right away, and be sure to destroy your old card after you do so.