While your credit card is supposed to expire every few years to stop thieves from using an inactive account, a provision in credit card processing company policy lets merchants charge a card indefinitely. The merchant can only do this for certain charges, and if you are worried about the security of an old card, contact your bank. Because customer service standards are different for every company, it pays to review a company's policies before taking out a credit card.
Normally, an expired credit card number cannot be charged except in the case of a recurring bill. Credit card processors allow recurring charges, such as a monthly subscription to an online magazine, to go through as long as the customer agrees to the charges. The credit card processors adopted this practice because expired credit card numbers are a major reason for customer loss for companies that depend on monthly subscription fees.
Letting a merchant charge an old card could promote credit card fraud. A thief that obtains an old credit card account number can disguise charges as "recurring" to bypass an expiration date. Expiration dates are an extra measure of security for customers. If a credit card charge goes through with a wrong expiration date, it usually sends a red flag to the issuer that the charge might be fraudulent.
Closing an account may not stop a company or thief from pushing through recurring charges. It is the policy of some banks, such as Bank of America, to honor recurring charges as long as the company claims the customer gave it authorization. This means a recurring charge could keep a card active years after the customer has closed the account.
Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card, and ask the company about its policy on recurring charges. If you are not satisfied with the level of service, consider switching to another bank, suggests Brian Livingston of EarthWeb. You might receive a higher interest rate, but a bank more willing to help its customers could save you money if recurring charges become a problem and the bank resolves the matter swiftly. Also, review any agreement that might contain monthly charges. Some banks have tools to stop recurring charges, such as MasterCard's Recurring Payment Cancellation Service.
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