What happens when credit cards expire?

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Credit cards may be small pieces of plastic with tiny little letters and numbers on them, but those little numbers carry big meaning.

Four of the numbers on every credit card indicate the credit card expiration date. While your account does not expire on that date, your card does. Let’s take a look at what happens on credit card expiration dates and what it means for you.

What happens on a credit card expiration date?

A credit card expiration date is a specific month and year when a physical credit card expires. The account does not close on that date, but it is the last date when you can use that specific card.

Most card issuers will send you a replacement card at least a few weeks before the expiration date. The new card will have the same credit card number, but a new expiration date farther in the future.

If you ever accidentally destroy a card, the same thing happens. They will send you a new one with a new expiration date farther in the future. But because your account number stays the same, it does not affect your credit or anything else in your finances. You just have to start using a new card.

What does not happen on a credit card expiration date

More important than what does happen on a credit card expiration date is what does not happen on a credit card expiration date. Here is a quick look at some common misconceptions about credit card expiration dates.

    • Your account does not close — On the credit card expiration date, the physical card in your wallet expires. Your account never expires and should never close without your consent unless it is inactive or you do not adhere to account terms.
    • Your account number does not change — When your card expires, you get a new card with the same account number. Your account number does not change unless your card or account number is lost or stolen.
    • It does not harm your credit — Opening and closing credit accounts can have a temporary negative effect on your credit score. Your card expiring does not close your account, so it does not harm your credit report or credit score in any way.
    • Your balance does not go away — If you hoped your credit card expiration date would get you out of paying, you hoped wrong. Even if your account closes, you still have to pay off that balance. But paying off is a good thing. It means you don’t have to pay expensive credit card interest.

Your credit cards are an important piece of your personal finance puzzle, so you should make sure to fully understand how they work, how to avoid extra costs, and both the benefits and drawbacks of using credit cards.

For more, check out Clark’s personal philosophy on credit cards to see how you compare.

Do a credit card audit

While your credit card expiration date does not have any serious impact on your finances beyond a slight inconvenience and a new piece of plastic, it is a good reminder to review all of your credit cards.

Whether you have one credit card or one dozen, terms and benefits can change from time to time, as do your spending habits. Any time a credit card expires, use it as an opportunity to conduct a credit card audit on your cards.

Look at any annual fees, pay off any balances, and compare rewards programs to decide which card should be your primary and if you want to use any specific cards for bonus rewards at places like restaurants, grocery stores, or gas stations.

Rewards credit cards can offer huge benefits with a ton of value, but only if you use them responsibly and take full advantage of the rewards programs.

Become an expert in your credit cards

Your personal finances are important, so you should take the time to be an expert in every account you have, including your credit cards. If you don’t know how they work, they might unexpectedly cost you money or you might miss out on valuable rewards!

Also consider, if you use rewards cards, what type of rewards you want to earn. For example, do you want cash back or do you prefer travel rewards? Both cards offer rewards, but because everyone has different needs and goals, you should focus on the type of rewards that you want most.

Read into other benefits as well, like rental car insurance and purchase protections. These can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on if and how you use them. Don’t overlook the perks you get from your credit cards!

Make your credit card work for you

Credit cards can cost a lot of money if you don’t use them right. But if you plan and manage your credit card usage, you can earn a nice bonus for every swipe and dip of your credit card. By understanding the details about your credit cards, everything from the expiration date to the rewards program, you are in the best position to put your card to work for you.

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