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Why do credit cards expire?

Every credit card comes with an expiration date. But have you ever wondered: “Why do credit cards expire?"

It may be a bit of a hassle when your credit card expires, but there's good reason for it. Expiration dates on credit cards can help protect you against fraud and ensure the cards in your wallet function properly.

What is a credit card expiration date?

A credit card expiration date is a set time when a card will need to be replaced. Typically, the expiration date is represented as a numerical month and a year. For example, an expiration date of 07/25 means the card will expire on July 31st, 2025, depending on the issuer.

There are several reasons why credit cards come with expiration dates:

Fraud protection

When you're making online purchases, you usually have to enter your credit card's expiration date and other information like your name, the billing address, and the card verification code (also known as its CVC). This requirement acts as a layer of protection because the expiration date is printed on the physical card itself. If someone attempts to make a fraudulent purchase using your credit card details without having the actual card, it may be more difficult for them to do so without access to the expiration date.

Natural wear and tear

Credit cards are pretty sturdy, but after months or years of use, they can start to show wear and tear. They may become cracked or chipped, the magnetic strip may wear down or the chip may become unreadable. To help your card remain in working order, credit card companies use the card expiration date as an opportunity to send you a fresh, new card.

New credit card technology

Companies typically improve their credit card technology over time, making the cards easier and safer to use. Remember just a few years ago, when few if any credit cards had microchips in them? By now, most of the chip-less credit cards have probably expired and been replaced with microchip cards that can be easily used with chip readers.

What happens when a credit card expires?

If a credit card expires, it will become unusable. This is a possible explanation if you find that your credit card has been declined.

Your credit card company will send you a new credit card as the card expiration date approaches. When this happens, you may need to activate the new card and update any automated payments you have associated with the old card.

What to do with an expired credit card

In most cases, you automatically receive a new credit card in the mail when your old one expires. If this doesn't happen, you may want to contact your credit card issuer and ask for a replacement.

Follow the instructions provided to activate your new card and consider testing it out on a purchase to make sure it's working correctly.

Once you have the new card activated, you should destroy the expired credit card before disposing of it safely. This can help prevent anyone from using the information on that card to steal your identity or make fraudulent purchases.

Finally, you may need to update your automatic payments with the new card information. For example, you may have automated payments set up on streaming services, or you might have saved the old credit card information in your web browser's auto-fill function. In these cases, it's possible you'll need to enter the new card information, CVC, and any updates to your billing address or name as it appears on the card.

In summary

Credit card expiration dates are an important form of protection for all cardmembers, and they help your card stay in working order. You may want to keep an eye on the month and year your card expires and check the mail frequently for the replacement in the weeks leading up to your credit card expiration date. This will help ensure you won't have to go a single day without a functioning card.

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