General Question

mcbealer's avatar

How do dispose of expired/unwanted credit cards?

Asked by mcbealer (10182points) March 12th, 2010

I’m in the process of combing through years worth of paperwork and have come across dozens of credit cards that are either expired or from accounts that are closed.

I know that some shredders are capable of handling credit cards, however I don’t have one. In the past, I have cut them up using scissors, which is tricky and very time consuming.

So I’m curious if there is another solution out there….
How do you dispose of yours?

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32 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Burning them is easy enough to do. Make sure you check with the credit card companies that the account is indeed closed as the account may still show up on your credit report.

MrItty's avatar

scissors. Down the width of the magnetic stripe, the magnetic stripe vertically a few times, and the main part into several parts to remove the numbers.

wilma's avatar

I use scissors, but I’ve never had that many to destroy. I would have a nice little fire in the back yard, get all those old bank statement while you’re at it and roast a few marshmallows.

Fyrius's avatar

I believe the standard method is to cut them in two, sideways, at least here. I recall being required to do so for some card or another in the past. It’s a good enough way to make sure nobody can ever stick it into any machine any more.
I suppose killing it with fire would be a somewhat more radical way to do it, if you really want to make sure it’s gone.

dpworkin's avatar

I like to bend them back and forth until they weaken and break (I can never seem to find the scissors when I need them.)

whatthefluther's avatar

I used to cut them up with a scissors but now have a shredder that handles them very nicely. Although burning them would be effective, the fumes off burning plastic are pretty nasty and probably toxic. See ya…...Gary/wtf
PS: I believe @Blondesjon offers a disposal service of sorts, if you care to send your cards his way. However, the account must still be open as he insists that he also handle the account cancellation…..he is a full service kind of guy.

pearls's avatar

Cut them up in several pieces or put them through a shredder.

Snarp's avatar

I used to either cut them up, or bend them until they broke, but I have an inexpensive shredder that handles credit cards quite nicely that I use now. Here’s one for 20 bucks.

I would definitely go with scissors over burning though, I wouldn’t burn anything plastic. But @Cruiser‘s advice to call the companies is good. You need to make sure each of the associated accounts is closed before you destroy the card. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do that.

(My mother in law, a bad example because she’s a bit daffy anyway, needed some help getting her finances in order. We got her credit report and said, you have 15 credit cards, you’re credit will be better if we close all but one of those. She said, I don’t have that many, I only have 3, I got rid of all the rest. She had destroyed the cards, but never cancelled the accounts. On a credit report that looks like a lot of potential to quickly rack up a huge debt. They don’t like that kind of thing.)

mcbealer's avatar

@whatthefluther ~ very funny I’ll have to keep his services in mind :)

I appreciate all the responses so far… unfortunately I live in town and the Fire Marshal would very upset if I had a bonfire in the yard.

As I mentioned in the details, I don’t have access to a shredder. I’m basically looking for ideas so I don’t have to chop them up by hand with scissors. thanks!

janbb's avatar

I guess that blows my idea about cutting them up with a scissors; Iwill say I don’t feel I have to cut them into too many pieces for them to be rendered impotent. The shards are great for making scratches and texturing in paintings.

Snarp's avatar

@mcbealer Sorry, I think that’s about it. If burning them is out (a good decision, I think) and you aren’t able to buy a shredder or don’t thing it’s a good investment, then you’re going to have to do it by hand, probably with scissors. But here’s an original idea (still requires doing it by hand): bend it back and forth until it breaks and the lamination starts to peel. Then you can peel off the layers of the magnetic strip one at a time. You can also do the same to the front to peel away the numbers, but it’s going to be more tedious than using scissors. You can also expose them to a strong magnet, but the numbers are still there. Or you can just cancel the accounts and throw the cards in the garbage, they’re useless at that point anyway. Or you could cancel them and bury them in the backyard.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Hmmmm..mine just disintegrate from overuse ;) I would cut them up

HTDC's avatar

Place it in the middle of a busy street, then turn around and close your eyes for 10 seconds.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

If the card is expired, just cut it up. It’s useless without a CCV number and a valid expiration date. If the card is still good, you want to render it illegible. Turn it over and obliterate the CCV number on the back. You can just scratch it off with a knife point. Then cut it up and dispose of it in bagged trash.

thriftymaid's avatar

Don’t just dispose of them. You have to close the account first. Then you can shred them or whatever.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@thriftymaid , it’s actually not a good idea to close a credit card, even if you aren’t using it. It can have a negative effect on your credit rating. With consumer credit getting tighter, you don’t want to cut yourself off from any source of it. You never know when you might need that card.

In fact, it’s a good idea to make some small purchase from time to time on your inactive cards, to keep the company from marking your account inactive and closing the account unilaterally.

Snarp's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex Closing a credit card yourself does not hurt your credit rating. The reverse is true, having too much outstanding credit, even if you don’t owe on it, can hurt your credit.

As to cutting yourself off from credit, well that’s a personal decision as to how much credit you want to have and use. If you end up racking up debt on those credit cards because you need it, you are likely to end up worse off than when you started.

But if you aren’t closing the accounts, then you shouldn’t destroy the card (unless they’re expired) because the card gives you the information you need to access or close the account.

Snarp's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex You prompted me to do a search on this, and I found some information that suggests I may be wrong, at least as far as the credit score goes. I’m not sure, however, that credit score is the only thing lenders consider from a credit report, but I don’t know. If it is, then why do they keep so much superfluous data? Anyway, apparently it can hurt your score, but probably not that much, and if you maintain a couple of accounts with high limits, or don’t carry balances it isn’t going to matter much. Particularly if you also have major loans like car loans and mortgages.

For security’s sake, I would close accounts that I didn’t intend to use and assume that my credit rating will take care of itself. I have a single card with a high limit and a very long history as well as a mortgage with a good, long history. A few credit cards one way or the other aren’t going to make any difference with that, but if someone gets the information on those cards and uses it fraudulently, it will take a lot of work to fix the serious damage that can do to a credit report.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@Snarp , here is what Consumer Reports has to say about closing a credit card:

“2. You close a credit-card account after a rate hike
How this affects your score

It can hurt somewhat if you had a large credit line and a low balance, says Tom Quinn, vice president of global scoring solutions for FICO. That’s because the scoring model will no longer include your vast, unused credit from this account when calculating the percentage of total available credit you’re using.

If you still maintain a sizable balance on the account, the negative effect is smaller, Quinn says. And if you always thought you got bonus points if you, rather than the lender, shuttered an account, the FICO model doesn’t recognize any difference.
Our advice

Keep the existing account open but use it sparingly if you hate the rate. This is especially important if the credit card happens to be your oldest account, because the scoring model only “knows” your earliest credit experience (for which you get positive points) from what it “sees” in the credit report. Closed accounts are eventually dropped from your report, so the longevity of your credit history will not be apparent, which could hurt you. ”

mcbealer's avatar

Great advice… keep it coming.
Also, I’ve already closed any accounts that are pertinant.

Snarp's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex Interestingly, I’ve heard from a number of generally reputable financial experts in the media that closing accounts is good for your credit, and keeping them open bad. So it’s interesting that there’s this apparently false conventional wisdom out there that is so easily corrected. I guess the next question is what do lenders really consider? Are they only looking at the FICO score, or do they look at a credit report in more depth? My knowledge of how corporate America works in general would suggest that they wouldn’t spend time doing individual analyses when there’s an easy shortcut in the FICO score.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@Snarp , yeah, it seems counter-intuitive, but that’s how FICO looks at it. But I think one of the enormous problems with consumer credit is how little people understand about how all of this works. It’s like black magic sometimes.

There can be problems with keeping the accounts open, too. If you are applying for a big loan, like a mortgage, then they will consider the total of all your credit lines in determining how much to lend you, so having high-limit cards can hurt you there, even if you aren’t using them.

Snarp's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex So for a mortgage they look at more than just FICO? It just seems to me that the most important reason for maintaining good credit is to be able to get a favorable mortgage, so that’s good enough for me.

chyna's avatar

I am kind of paranoid so I cut them through the center just one time. Then I put one piece in one bag of garbage and the other piece in another bag of garbage. Hopefully, no one is going to go through my garbage 2 weeks in a row to get the other piece of my credit card.

tedibear's avatar

Any credit cards that I dispose of are cut into 5 or 6 pieces I like scissors and then the pieces are disposed of in the used cat litter bag.

davidbetterman's avatar

Burning plastic creates carcinogenic fumes.

downtide's avatar

I just use scissors, and make sure I cut the length of the magnetic strip as well as cutting through the chip-and-pin chip.

maudie's avatar

I use scissors on mine, and then I just don’t worry about it. If someone wants to dig through my trash and swipe the magnetic signature on one of my credit cards, I’ll catch him eventually with one of my quarterly free credit report checks. Annoying, but identity theft is a fact of life these days. I’ve gotten notices from three companies so far admitting that my personal financial data was stolen from them, and I’ve stopped caring. I just monitor my credit and hope not to get my identity stolen by too nefarious of a bastard.

On an unrelated note, I’ve found that the redworms in my kitchen waste composting bin LOVE eating my junk mail. Six months after receipt, my junk mail is lovely worm castings in my garden.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

If they’ve already passed an expiration date, then they can’t be used in any case. You could hand them out to criminals on the street with instructions to “use and abuse this card all you want” and they couldn’t do it. They won’t have up to date “security codes”, and no merchant will accept the card with a past expiration date.

More so if the accounts are closed.

Really, sometimes people get a bit too worked up over “security”. Toss expired cards in the trash and be done with it.

YARNLADY's avatar

@chyna That’s what I do
@mcbealer Take them to Staples and ask them to shred them while you stand there and watch. You can let them dispose of the pieces, or take them back dispose of them in the same bag you dispose of the kitty litter, or dog droppings.

mcbealer's avatar

@YARNLADY OMG you are brilliant!!

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