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How to (Literally, Physically) Get Rid of a Credit Card

Consider it like a murder: You don’t want to leave a trace

So you’ve weighed all your choices and decided that your [Redacted] credit card has fucked you over for the last time. Never mind just paying it off and putting it in your underwear drawer, you want to be rid of the whole thing. 

Ordinarily, of course, it’s much better for your credit score not to cancel a card, so if there’s no annual fee, you ought to consider whether the vengeance of canceling is worth the dent it could make to your score, impacting your future ability to get new credit cards or loans. And if there is an annual fee, it might be worth it to call your card issuer and ask to downgrade — this way, you won’t be penalized for canceling. 

But! If you’re truly committed to credit card annihilation –– or, y’know, your card just expired and you need to toss it –– here’s how to get rid of the damn thing…

The Physical

Once you’ve called up your card dealer and told them 12 times over that you’d like to cancel, disposing of the actual credit card will feel like a breeze. As you would a body, just chop it up and disperse its parts throughout the tri-county area. Cutting it into three or four pieces and putting it all into one trash bag isn’t the best idea: The goal is to make the card unrecognizable so it’s impossible for someone to gather all of your card’s information. Ideally, you’d dispose of the card’s pieces at more than one location –– even if you put them in separate trash bins in your home, if they end up in the same dumpster, someone could hypothetically put it all together.

Alternatively, credit cards can be shredded in specialized paper shredders. You can buy a paper shredder with credit card-destroying capabilities for under $40 on Amazon — if you’re concerned enough about identity theft, you should probably have a shredder. Mr. Fancy with the metal credit card, however, will need to contact his card issuer and request a return envelope to mail the card back, where it can be properly killed.

Odds are, of course, if you’re tossing a credit card, it’s because you’ve canceled the account or the card has expired, and in either case, the card should be rendered useless anyway — in the event that someone was able to make a purchase with it, you shouldn’t be held responsible for the fraudulent charges. But the thing is, even after a card has expired or been canceled, it might still work. And even if the resulting fraudulent charges are cleared, it’s still a giant hassle to deal with. On top of that, former credit card information could potentially be used to steal someone’s identity, so again, chop that shit up.

The Digital

Today, it’s possible to use your credit card multiple times a day without ever even pulling it out of your wallet. Not only do many of us have our card information saved to Amazon or Paypal, but Apple Pay and other digital wallets are accepted at essentially every major retailer and most of the tiny ones, too. 

This is to say, if you’re getting rid of a card, you’ll need to get rid of the digital evidence and do a deep dive into your online/mobile spending, removing the card’s information from the platforms you’ve previously used it. To remove a card from Apple Pay, for example, go to the Wallet app, then select the credit card you’d like to delete. Press the circle with the “…” in the upper right corner to reach the card’s settings, and scroll down to the bottom to delete it from the app. 

You’ll also want to make sure you don’t have any automatic bill-pay linked with the card, so double-check your card statements for any subscriptions or services you might have been paying off with said card. 

There’s also the problem of points. While you might be done with a certain card, closing an account could mean you’re throwing away what’s basically your hard-earned cash. The exact value of your points/miles will vary from card to card, as will whether you can hang on to them once a card is closed. Generally, if the card earns hotel points or airline miles, these will still hold value within the hotel/airline’s loyalty system but may have an expiration date

Points that are specific to your card, however, like those of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards system, will be deleted along with your card if you cancel. This is another reason to consider downgrading cards or simply hiding them away, rather than getting rid of them entirely. 

Kind of wild how none of us even asked to be born and now we’ve gotta think about things like credit scores and airline miles. Lean in and embrace the void, baby!