You look at your credit card and notice the expiration date is fast approaching, and you might be wondering — what happens when your credit card expires? Credit card expiry dates can be confusing and can lead you to a lot of questions. Do you have to reapply for your credit card after it expires? Why do credit cards expire?

Luckily, having your credit card expire is a pretty simple process, but there are still some things you may have to do as a cardholder. We break down what happens when your credit card expires.

Why do credit cards expire?

First things first! You might be wondering why your credit card expires. Expiration dates apply only to the physical card and not the credit card account or account number- there is no end date to that account or number. That means that usually your credit card issuer simply automatically sends you a new card when your old one expires — you don't have to reapply.  Also, getting a new replacement card when your old card expires doesn't impact your credit score.

Credit cards expire to add another layer of fraud protection to your card -- since you have to update the expiration info and security code - 3 or 4- digit numbers that appear on the back of your card (the “CVV”) on any of your saved card information, ex. if you have set up automatic payments on reoccurring bills like hydro. It also allows credit card companies to refresh your card to address normal wear and tear, which can sometimes break down the magnetic strip on your credit card or send you a card with updated security features designed to keep your credit card account better protected against any fraud or unauthorized transactions.

You must destroy your expired credit card

Since your credit card number typically remains the same when your credit card expires, destroy your expired old credit card when your replacement card arrives.

You can do this by first demagnetising the magnetic strip with a magnet — even a fridge magnet will do the job if you rub it over the card. Then, be sure to cut your card up or shred it and dispose of it. Doing this will help to prevent scammer from getting access to your credit card number.

Why do credit cards expire?

Credit cards are part of a lot of people’s (sometimes virtual) wallets. Along with being convenient, using a credit card wisely can also build your credit score and history, which is useful when you apply for other credit in the future. 

Here's how credit cards work and what you need to know before adding one to your wallet.

Confirm that your credit card terms are still the same

Once you receive your replacement credit card, you should check its terms (rates, fees and other benefits) to make sure they're still the same before you activate it.  Often your credit card issuer will send you updated terms with your new card and when they make changes. Read through these carefully to see what might have changed. These changes could include changes to your rewards, the insurance that is included with your card or other coverages, fees, interest rates or other features. They might also have changed the terms of things like your annual fee or balance transfer interest rates, which means a balance transfer could cost you more in the future. Knowing how your card works is important to making informed choices about how to use it – including when your cards expiry. 

Explore what Scotiabank credit card could work best for you

Expiration dates fall on the last day of the month

Is your card expiring this month? If so, you might not be sure about exactly when that happens. The good news is your credit card expiration date always comes at the end of the month—the last day of the month, to be exact—so you can use your current card until then or activate your new replacement card as soon as you get it in the mail.

What to do before your credit card expires

You don't have to do much. Your new credit card should automatically come from your issuer and arrive either a couple of weeks or a month before your card expires. 

Note - If you don't receive your new card in the mail two weeks before your card expires, be sure to call your credit card issuer and confirm that your card is in the mail. If you've moved recently and haven't updated your address with the issuer, it might have been sent to the wrong place. Making sure that you get it on time before your old card expires can be critical if you regularly purchase things using your card.  

What to do when your credit card expires

When your credit card expires, the process of activating and setting up the replacement card is simple. All you have to do is call the activation hotline listed on the card Most activation hotlines are automated and open 24/7. It often takes just a few minutes to activate your card fully. At Scotia, you can also activate your card online.  Some issuers may offer a way to activate your card through an online activation process.

Once your card is activated, you need to check if you need to update all the recurring payments you set up on your old card so that you don't have any disruptions in services. One easy way to do this is to look at a credit card statement to see what gets charged to your card every month and update all of those. Don't forget about any quarterly and annual charges, too.

What happens if you don't activate your card?

If you don't activate your new card, you will no longer have access to your account until you do, since your old credit card won't work. That could mean that you would have problems with any recurring charges. Also, after a period of 45 to 60 days, your credit card issuer might contact you to check if you received your card, and you might need to apply again to start using your credit account again.

Lost, stolen or damaged card

Sometimes you need a new credit card before your card expires. If you lose or damage your card, for example, you will need to request a new card.  

Also, if your card or card number is stolen, you will need a new card.  This process is easy, too. 

Many banks and credit card issuers allow you to call them to report a lost, stolen or damaged card. Remember you should report your card or card number as lost or stolen to your issuer immediately to avoid any unauthorized transactions on your credit card account. You might even be able to log into your credit card account and report it that way or, at least, set up a temporary hold on your credit card account if you're afraid of fraudulent charges. If you are a Scotiabank customer, you can lock and unlock your credit card using the “Card Lock” feature on Scotiabank’s mobile app. Learn how here

If your card is lost or damaged, you will likely get a new card with the same card number. However, if your card is stolen, you will likely get a new credit card number entirely. Many card companies may expedite your card to you in a couple of business days in all these circumstances to minimize the disruption you experience. Check if a fee applies if they do this.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotia advisor today