Updated: Apr 02, 2024

Expiration Dates: Why Credit Card and Debit Cards Have Them

Learn why credit cards and debit cards have expiration dates, including how it is essential for protecting consumers and merchants alike.
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Debit cards and credit cards have a variety of numbers on them. This includes your account number on the front of the card, as well as an expiration date. 

Your credit card issuer or bank will send an updated card (about every three years). The new card might have the same account number, yet a different expiration date. 

But if your card hasn’t been lost or stolen, you might ask:

Why does it need an expiration date?

Having an expiration date on your debit or credit card might seem like an extra hassle, as you’ll have to activate the new card and properly destroy the old.

Yet, there are good reasons for these cards to expire—reasons that benefit you and the merchant.

What Is the Expiration Date?

The expiration date for a debit or credit card is often printed near the front lower left side of the card. In most cases, cards remain valid for about three years. 

One good thing about expiration dates is that you don’t have to do anything with regard to getting a new card.

Your credit card issuer or bank will keep a record of your expiration dates, and then send a new card about 30 to 60 days before your current card expires.

Sometimes, banks and credit card issuers send a letter or email alerting customers to an upcoming expiration date. They’ll tell you to keep a lookout in the mail for the new card. 

But even when a card is about to expire, you can continue to use it.

For example, an expiration date of 12/20 means that your credit or debit card will expire on the last day of the printed month. In this case, you can continue to use your current card up until December 31, 2020.

On the off chance that your credit or debit card is close to expiring and you haven’t received a new one yet, contact the issuing bank to get a status update or request one.

Most people will receive a new credit card or debit card without issue.

Keep in mind:

It’s common for credit card issuers to evaluate a cardholder’s credit account when a card is about to expire. 

The company might take a few actions depending on your current credit history.

For example, if you have good credit and you’ve managed the account responsibly, your credit card issuer might raise your credit limit at this time. 

On the other and, if your credit score has decreased or if you have high credit card balances across all your accounts, the credit card company might lower your credit limit.

Reasons for Credit and Debit Card Expiration Dates

The question remains: Why do credit and debit cards expire in the first place? 

It might seem easier to have a card that never expires, and only request a new one if it’s lost or stolen. Yet, here’s a look at several reasons why it’s good to get a new card from time to time.

1. Normal wear and tear

The truth is:

Credit cards and debit cards aren’t designed to last forever. 

Even if your cards appear to be in good condition, normal wear and tear can affect how well they work. So if you were to swipe an older card to pay for a transaction, the machine might be unable to read the strip. 

Additionally, cards with new EMV chip technology might stop working over time. The chip can malfunction with normal wear and tear, too And as a result, you’re unable to complete transactions. 

But if you receive a new card every three to four years, you’re less likely to deal with a strip or chip malfunction.

2. Helps prevent fraud

Having a credit or debit card expire from time to time can also prevent fraud because the CVV changes with each new card.

Thieves are clever, and they know how to get their hands on credit and debit card numbers, although the card might be in your possession. 

But while they’re able to get your number, they might be unable to get your CVV. This is a three or four-digit number printed on the front or back of a card. 

When shopping online or over the phone, many merchants will request the security code to make sure that the card is actually in your possession.

If someone steals your credit card number but doesn’t have your security code, attempts to use your card for fraudulent purchases might fail.

3. Allows your credit card company to market new products

If your credit card is nearing its expiration date, your credit card issuer may also use this opportunity to market new products to you.

They might offer you a credit card that has a rewards program, more perks, and better protection. 

When some people are approved for a new credit card, they keep this card for many years and don’t ever think about upgrading.

One or two months before your card expires, your credit card company might send a few credit offers to see if they can up-sell you.

4. Get a card with an updated design

Card designs and technology also change periodically. So by having debit and credit cards expire, banks and credit card companies can get new card designs out into the general public

This includes giving their customers cards with new security features such as EMV chip technology. And when a bank or credit card company rebrands, they can send cards with their new name and logo. 

5. Provides a reminder to use the card

If you came up with a plan to pay off credit card debt, you might have shredded or cut your old credit card to reduce temptation but kept your account opened. 

If you still have an active account, yet haven’t used your credit card in a while, having cards expire is how banks put new cards into your hands. It serves as a reminder to use the account. 

With a new card in hand, you might start using the card again (responsibly, of course). This is an excellent way for credit card issuers to retain customers.

How Expirations Dates Help Consumers and Merchants?

Expiring credit and debit cards are beneficial to you and merchants.

As a consumer, getting a new card with a new security code from time to time protects your information.

You’re less likely to deal with fraudulent activity. 

Saved payment info expires too

The downside:

Getting a new debit or credit card means you’ll have to update saved payment information with the new expiration date. This might be the case if you use a credit card or debit card for monthly automated payments. 

Although this is an extra step, the good news is that it also gives you an opportunity to evaluate some of your subscription services. You can see which accounts you use, and which ones you don’t. 

For those you don’t use, you can cancel these subscriptions and save money each month.

Validate an active card

Expiration dates also benefit merchants because they can validate whether a card is active and valid.

When someone makes a purchase online or over the phone, having to provide an expiration date and security code adds an extra security measure to prevent fraudulent activity 

Fraudsters might have your credit card number, but not the additional information.

Do Retail Store Credit Cards Have Expiration Dates?

Typically, if you have a retail credit card like a store card or a gas card, these cards do not have expiration dates

The main reason is because you can only use these cards at specific retailers. Plus, retail cards often have lower credit limits. Both factors lower the risk of fraud.

Nonetheless, these cards are also subject to normal wear and tear.

So even though the cards don’t have expiration dates, the company that issues your retail credit card will likely send a new card about every three to four years.

Final Word

When your credit card or debit card expires, it’s important to read the updated terms and fees associated with the account before activating.

Sometimes, terms and fees remain the same. But they can change, too. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for. 

Also, if you’re expecting a new credit or debit card in the mail, check your mailbox daily.

More so if you don’t have a lock on your box. If the card doesn’t arrive, contact your bank or credit card company to confirm whether it was sent.

If you’re headed out of town when a new debit or credit card is expected to arrive, have someone you trust check your mailbox daily. You can also ask the post office to hold your mail. 

Additionally, make sure you shred the expired card. This also protects your information and keeps your account number out of the wrong hands.