Most credit cards come with decent fraud protection these days. If someone steals and uses your card, most issuers make it easy to dispute the transactions and flag your account. That doesn't mean you should be haphazard with it, though. If you cancel your card or it expires, break out the scissors (or the shredder).
Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Cut It Up, Even If It's Expired
Despite the many protections credit card issuers offer these days, yes, you should still cut up your old cards. I verified this with Robert Siciliano, Identity Theft Expert and CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com. He told me:
Cutting up cards makes the magnetic stripe unusable. But the card number, even if the expiration date has passed, may still be usable. All one needs to do is use a current non-expired date and the card sometimes goes through. So cutting up the card and disposing in different places is the best case security.
Simply slicing it in two won't do, either. You should destroy it completely. In fact, consider cutting it into 15 slices as shown in the video above.
Too much work? You might try a shredder, but make sure to use one that's built for the thickness of a credit card.
Don't Forget to Destroy The Chip
Data is stored not only in your magnetic stripe but also in the chip that credit cards come with. That chip must be destroyed, too, says Siciliano.
Cutting a chip is like cutting the magstripe. This completely makes the data contained on it inoperable.
You can try to cut the chip, otherwise Creditcards.com suggests smashing it with a hammer, which sounds a lot more fun.
To sum it all up, yes, you do still need to destroy your credit cards despite the fraud protection many companies now offer. After all, there's identifiable information on your card and, even if it's expired, thieves may still be able to use that information. Cut it up and, if you really want to protect yourself, toss the pieces in separate bins for good measure.
Identity theft happens, which is why knowing how to safely cut and discard your expired credit cards is worth knowing. Money weblog Wallet Pop offers their take on how to do so properly.