How to dis­pose of a credit card se­curely

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Business - Gre­gory Karp

Dis­pos­ing of un­wanted items in our lives of­ten means sim­ply throw­ing them into the garbage or re­cy­cling bin – or, if they’re still use­ful, giv­ing them away. It’s dif­fer­ent with old credit cards and other pay­ment cards, which should be de­stroyed so no­body can use them fraud­u­lently.

But how to de­stroy a pay­ment card prop­erly is not ob­vi­ous. Here’s how to get rid of an old card – no burn­ing or bury­ing re­quired.

First, con­tact the is­suer

If clos­ing the ac­count is your goal, you’ll have to call the num­ber on the back of your card – although clos­ing an ac­count may not al­ways be a good idea.

If your card is a re­wards card, re­mem­ber to first re­deem points or cash back. Change any au­to­matic pay­ments to a dif­fer­ent card, and be sure to pay the fi­nal card bill. Skip this step if you’re sim­ply re­plac­ing an ex­pired or com­pro­mised card.

Cut up plas­tic cards

Sturdy scis­sors and smart trim­ming will do the job here.

“We rec­om­mend that con­sumers cut through the EMV chip, then fur­ther cut the card a few times along the short side, and dis­pose of the sec­tions in more than one trash bag,” said Sarah Grano, a spokes­woman for the Amer­i­can Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion.

Or feed plas­tic cards into a pa­per shred­der de­signed to han­dle them.

Send back metal cards

De­stroy­ing ametal card by your­self is harder and po­ten­tially danger­ous. Con­tact your is­suer. Typ­i­cally, you can mail it back for dis­posal.

When Amer­i­can Ex­press sends a re­place­ment card, it also sends an ad­dressed re­turn en­ve­lope to mail back an old metal card for de­struc­tion, spokes­woman Heather Nor­ton said.

Check back on your ac­count

Don’t ob­sess about iden­tity theft of an old credit card. You gen­er­ally won’t be re­spon­si­ble for fraud­u­lent charges any­way, although you could en­dure some has­sle. Take ex­tra care­with debit cards and other plas­tic where fraud means you might ac­tu­ally be miss­ing money, even if tem­po­rar­ily. It’s a good idea to check your ac­count state­ment – even your last one on a closed ac­count – to be sure there’s no fraud.

Clos­ing an ac­count can hurt you

Clos­ing a credit card ac­count can lower your credit rat­ing. Credit scores con­sider your “credit uti­liza­tion ra­tio,” or how much of your avail­able credit you’re us­ing. A lower ra­tio is bet­ter. And when you close an ac­count, you have less avail­able credit. Scores also con­sider the length of time you’ve had the card open.

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