My business credit card expires at the end of this month. I had had my brand-spanking-new one on my desk for over a month, and finally activated the card this month.
Credit cards expire (and renew) for a number of good business reasons:
- Fraud protection. Stolen or cracked numbers on an expired card are worthless.
- Re-evaluation of creditworthiness. Just like car insurance companies only extend insurance for a set period of time, credit card issuers only extend credit for a set period of time. An expiring card gives them the opportunity to adjust some (but not all) parameters on your replacement card.
- To make the card prettier. So that we might be influenced into charging more because the card is green, say. Or because the company logo changed. Or any number of reasons. Anyway: fresh card = fresh design.
- Because we and the people at the grocery stores beat the tar out of them. We're not exactly gentle on these things, and Visa certainly isn't going to send someone out to caulk it back together and re-coat the magnetic strip.
The devil, and the potential fees, are in the details
The mechanics of activating a new credit card are really easy:
- Dial the number on the sticker on the front of the card.
- Follow the directions that the automated voice system leads you through.
Following these two steps, you have a new, active credit card that you can use immediately.
- Gather your credit card and bank statements for the past thirteen months. Why thirteen months? A year is likely the longest time period you'll have for your recurring charges.over which your charges will happen. An extra month gives peace of mind that you've covered a full year for sure.
- Review every transaction in those statements to locate all of the recurring charges, and list them. Depending on the number of transactions, and how organized you already are, this might take no time at all, or an hour or two. When you're done, you'll have a list of the businesses and websites you'll need to provide your new card information to.
- Visit the websites that are involved, and make sure you can log in to all of them. For some services you use, the billing login may be different than your regular login. If it's been a while since you logged into a website, you may not remember your password, or the password may have expired. It's best to verify access before activating the new credit card, so you can change the card information on the website immediately after you activate the new card.
- Review the automatic transactions, and pick a date that doesn't collide head-on with any of them. Not that you're anticipating issues, but if you have some breathing room between when you pull the trigger on the new card — that is, activate it — then you have more time to switch over in case a storm takes down your power for a week, in case your favorite aunt dies, etc. (The merchants don't care about hearing that these things happened. They just care that they get paid.)
- For added assurance, transfer some of the close-in payments to a backup credit card that isn't expiring soon. You can do this for the charges that are set to hit first, or for all of them. Even if this credit card isn't your favorite one (as in it doesn't give the best reward) it is a valid credit card, and it will keep you from getting socked with late charges.
Once you've picked your date, know all of the places you need to switch over, and know how to get into all of the sites:
- Activate the new card. Call up the number on the sticker on the new card, follow the directions, hang up after confirmation that the new card has been activated, peel the sticker off, and sign the back of the card. Destroy the now-expired card in any pleasurable way you like.
- Immediately switch over the payment information to the new card at the places you've identified. As in, right now. All of the payment information at those websites is now invalid, and you need to fix it. This is the place that all of the preparation will work to your advantage! You know all of the sites you need to log into, and you can log into all of the sites you need. So, take 20-30 minutes (maybe) and git'r'done!
Following this hopefully-smooth changeover, here are three things you can do to capitalize on your organization, and make things even easier the next time around!
- Continue to monitor your email for expired-card warnings. Consider it a blessing if you catch one, because somehow you missed it. It's happened to me.
- Review your automatic charges to see if you even need them anymore, or can combine them. The automatic charges are easy to forget about. Now, though, you have a good number of them in full view in a nice organized list! Take a bit of time to look them straight in the eye and see if some of them need to go.
- Consider downloading a password manager and organizing your autopay merchants. Password managers (like KeePass, which is free) have been given the thumbs-up by security gurus as a good way to manage all of these hard-to-remember passwords. Consider entering the passwords for your autopay merchants into a password manager, as well as entering new ones in there, to make hunting them all down next time a piece of cake.
- Photocopy or scan what's in your wallet or purse. This is a good record to have if your wallet or purse is ever lost or stolen. (We didn't do this before, and it was hectic!) Think of it this way: Do you want to have to remember everything you have to have replaced … or do you want to know everything you need to have replaced? Simply copy both sides of every card you want to have the information for. This would have account numbers, expiration dates, the issuer, and most importantly the phone number to call in the event the card is lost or stolen. A few minutes now can save hours or days of heartache later!
Any other tips? We'd love to hear about them in the comments!