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 the specific month and year when a physical credit card expires; you’ll see that date on the front of most credit cards. 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.
If you ever accidentally destroy a card, the same thing happens. The credit card company will send you a new card with a new expiration date further in the future. This does not affect your credit rating 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 happens on a credit card expiration date is what does not happen. 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 should not expire or close without your consent unless it is inactive or you do not adhere to account terms. To keep an account active, you should use the card at least once every six month.
- 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 rating. 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 rating 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 that you fully understand how they work, know how to avoid extra costs, and recognize 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, getting a new card can serve as a good reminder to review all of your credit cards.
Whether you have one credit card or a 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 an audit on your cards.
Look at any annual fees and pay off any balances. This is also a good time to review which card should be your primary and whether you want to designate any specific card(s) to earn bonus rewards at places like restaurants, grocery stores, or gas stations.
Rewards credit cards can offer huge benefits but only if you use them responsibly (pay off your balance each month in full) and take full advantage of the rewards programs.
Become an Expert on Your Credit Cards
Your personal finances are important, so you should take the time to become an expert on 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.
If you use rewards cards, consider what type of rewards you want to earn. Do you want cash back, or do you prefer travel rewards?
Learn about all the benefits your credit cards offer such as 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 Cards Work for You
Credit cards can cost you a lot of money if you don’t use them right. By understanding the details about each of your cards, everything from the expiration date to the rewards program, you are in the best position to put your cards to work for you.