Understanding Credit Card Expiration Dates

Unless you’ve never used a credit card before, you’re well aware that these popular pieces of plastic come with an expiration date. 

You can usually find the expiration date on the front of the card displayed in a two-digit format, which refers to the month and year.

For example, if your card’s date is 10/23, that means it expires at the end of October of 2023.

Credit cards always expire at the end of the month listed on the card.

Your card’s expiration date is one of three bits of information you need to know to use it, the other two being your card number and card verification value (CVV)).

Why do credit cards expire?

You might wonder why credit cards expire in the first place.

If your lender approves you for one, why does it stop working at what seems to be an arbitrary point in time?

There are several reasons why credit cards don’t last forever:

1. Extra security

It’s no secret that credit cards are prone to fraudulent activity, which is why card providers implement fraud detection measures for the cards they issue.

An expiration date provides an extra layer of security, acting to confirm a card’s validity. 

Card issuers reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions by incorporating mandatory expiration dates, which results in potentially compromised cards being removed from circulation periodically.

2. Obsolete technology

Technological advancements today occur at dizzying speeds, so much so that electronic devices can become outdated in just a few years. 

Financial institutions have a vested interest in keeping up to date with technology related to their product offerings, including credit cards.

Utilizing the latest technologies is especially crucial for credit cards to help curb fraud and identity theft.

3. Promotional offers

Credit card issuers routinely advertise a variety of promotional offers to their clients.

When your card expires, they have a timely opportunity to entice you with a deal for a new one, which may include a rewards program, a low introductory rate, or a waived annual fee in your first year.

There’s less chance of you considering these offers if your card continues to function indefinitely.

In addition, expiration dates also allow your card issuer to reassess your spending patterns, terms and conditions of your contract, and creditworthiness.

They can better understand your needs by assessing these details and matching you with a replacement card with features and benefits that fit your lifestyle and budget.

4. Wear and tear

As with many other cards in our wallets, using your credit card over an extended period inevitably results in physical deterioration.

For example, the card’s chip or magnetic strip can get worn out through repeated use at check-out terminals.

Whether through neglect or overuse, the damage inflicted on a card after several years is irreparable, leaving replacement as the only viable option.

Checking credit card expiration date

What happens when a credit card expires?

When your credit card expires, you’ll be unable to use it to make purchases.

However, your account will remain open, so you don’t need to worry about having to reapply to keep it in good standing.

As your current card’s expiry date approaches, your card issuer will send you a replacement card.

You can usually expect it to arrive in the mail a few weeks before your current one is deactivated.

Don’t Forget!

When your credit card expires, merchants can still charge it through automatic billing since your card’s account remains active. You’ll be liable for any charges, late fees, and interest charges that accrue.

What to do when a credit card expires?

As mentioned above, you don’t need to fret about your credit card expiring, as your card issuer will send you a replacement.

If the expiration date is dangerously close and your new card has yet to arrive, contact your issuer by calling the number on the back of your existing card.

Your new card will contain a sticker on the front with a phone number to call to activate it.

The process is carried out using an automated system and only takes a minute or two to complete.

Depending on the financial institution that issues your card, you may also activate it through your online banking.

Once your new card is fully functional, you should notify each merchant you do business with that employs automatic billing.

Your customer file contains your credit card details, which the merchant uses to charge your bill or subscription each month, quarter, or year.

Ensure you provide them with your new credit card expiry date and card verification value (CVV).

If you have access to your customer profile online, you can make the appropriate changes yourself.

After updating all your automatic billing accounts, the final step is to destroy your old card, ensuring any lingering information is unreadable and inaccessible.

A shredder or pair of scissors will get the job done efficiently.

Fun Fact!

If you fail to activate your new credit card for a lengthy period – typically 12 months – your card issuer may shut down your account.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do credit cards expire at the beginning or end of the month?
  • How long is a credit card usually valid for?

Mark is a freelance writer who specializes in writing content for firms in the financial services industry, including fintech. He has written for brands like Loans Canada, LowestRates, and The Motley Fool, covering topics related to investing, mortgages, credit cards, and many others.

He is passionate about educating people on how the financial markets work and providing tips to help them better manage their money. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and has more than a decade of experience as an accountant.

Outside of writing and finance, he enjoys playing poker, going to the gym, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.