What to expect when your credit card expires

Is the clock ticking on your credit card’s expiration date? Wondering what happens when you finally reach your credit card expiration date? Not to worry.

Here’s a quick rundown about your card's expiration, including what typically happens at Capital One, and some information to help the transition to your new card go smoothly. 

Why do credit cards expire?

Credit card companies are constantly working to update and improve the functionality and security of their credit cards. You can see those changes in the evolution from magnetic stripes to chip cards. And now many cards are going contactless to take advantage of tap-to-pay technology.

Cards also wear out over time. Expiration dates offer an opportunity to replace cards that may have random bends, folds, chips, scrapes and scratches that happen over time. If the magnetic stripe on the back has faded or the lamination is peeling, it could affect your ability to use your card.

When do credit cards expire?

Credit cards generally need to be replaced every three to five years—depending on the issuer. Capital One cards expire during the year noted on the card after the last day of the month listed. For example, if the date on a card says "11/25," it will probably expire on December 1, 2025. 

Whether you’ve activated a new replacement card or not, your old card may continue to work until your actual credit card expiration date.

Debit card expiration dates: How do they compare?

Debit card expiration dates work pretty much the same way that credit card expiration dates do. When your expiration date is approaching, your bank should send out a replacement card. Ideally, it arrives before your current card expires.

Can you still use an expired credit card?

Typically, credit cards don’t work after their expiration date. No one wants to have their card declined while there’s a bunch of people behind them in a checkout line—but that’s likely what will happen if you try to use your card after it's expired. 

Just keep in mind that even if your physical card has expired and you haven’t activated your new card, your credit card account is still active. An expired or inactive card won’t affect your balance. And you’re still responsible for making monthly payments.

What to do before your credit card expiration date

As your credit card expiration date approaches, make sure your contact information and mailing address are up to date. That’s because most issuers, including Capital One, will mail you your replacement card.

If you’re a Capital One cardholder, you’ll start receiving email reminders a few months before your card expires, reminding you to confirm your mailing address. You also can go online and sign in to your credit card account anytime to update your information.

What to do when your credit card expires

Once your information is updated and your new card is activated—more on this below—you can dispose of your expired card. 

If you have a plastic card, you can cut or shred it before you get rid of it. If you have a metal card, you can scratch through the magnetic strip and chip using a paper clip—metal cards may be too thick to be cut by most scissors.

If it’s a metal card from Capital One, you can mail it back. Capital One will happily destroy it for you through a secure process. Just use the return envelope that comes with your replacement card to mail back the expired card. The process is quick and easy, because postage is already included on the envelope.

When will a replacement credit card arrive?

All issuers are different, but many aim to have a new card to you before your card expires. Capital One will stay in communication with you throughout the months leading up to your credit card expiration date. 

Around three months before your Capital One card expires, you’ll get an email reminding you to make sure your mailing address is up to date. About a month later, you should get another email letting you know your new card is on its way. 

You can expect to have your new Capital One card around four weeks before your old one expires. If you haven’t gotten it by then, you can call 800-227-4825.

How to activate a new credit card

Your replacement card should come with instructions about how to activate it. This usually involves calling your issuer or signing in to your account online or on an app. The activation process is the same at Capital One if you have to replace your card because it was lost, stolen or damaged.

With Capital One, all it takes is a few taps in the mobile app, and your card will be ready to use. You can also activate your new card online

Have authorized users on your Capital One account? You’ll receive their replacement cards as well. And activating your card automatically activates theirs.

Remember: Your old card may continue to work until the day it expires, so be sure to dispose of it properly.

What happens if you don't activate a credit card?

If you don’t activate your new credit card right away, it won’t affect your account status. Your account will still be open, and you’ll be responsible for it. But keep in mind, your old card may not work if it’s expired. 

How to update recurring payments

The sooner you activate your new card, the more time you’ll have to update your recurring payments. That’s especially helpful if you have things like utility or phone bills set to auto pay each month.

Capital One helps you with this, too. 

About a month before your card expires, look out for an email from Capital One with a list of your recurring charges

Having that list might make it easier if you have to track down passwords and due dates for a bunch of different online accounts and websites. Some merchants may not appear, or may not be paid monthly, so be sure to check several months of full statements, too. 

If you don’t have your new card handy when you’re ready to update your payment info, you can always see your full card information by using the Capital One Mobile app or by signing in to your account online.

Virtual card numbers can also help. They’re available through Eno, your Capital One assistant. Virtual card numbers let you keep your actual credit card number private, and they keep working after you get your replacement card. So there’s no need to manually update your card information on sites where you’ve stored a virtual card number. Eno will handle it behind the scenes, automatically.

Is there anything I should do before my card expires?

If you’re a Capital One cardholder, the most important thing to do is update your mailing address.

But Capital One will be with you at every step. You’ll know when your new card is on its way and which information on your card is changing. And you’ll also have a starter list of merchants where you may need to update your payment information.

And don’t forget all the other digital features Capital One has to help: 

  • Eno helps you manage your account from any device, from your phone or laptop to your smartwatch. And if you’re expecting a new card, Eno can remind you to activate it. Plus, Eno gives you access to those virtual card numbers.
  • The Capital One Mobile app and your online account give you 24/7 access to up-to-date card information. While you wait for your replacement card to arrive, you can use that info to update recurring merchants, refresh mobile wallets and shop online.
  • Your replacement card may be equipped with contactless technology. It allows you to check out faster and securely by simply holding or tapping your card on enabled card readers.

Credit card expiration dates in a nutshell

When it comes to replacing your expired card and managing your account, Capital One has you covered. Got your new card? You can activate it online right now.

Want to learn more about how credit cards work? Check out these articles about how to increase your credit limit, how to read your credit card statement and how credit card interest works.

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