What should I do if I get a new or replacement credit card that I didn’t request?

If you receive an unsolicited credit card in the mail, here’s what to do.

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Question

I received a “replacement” department store credit card in the mail.  I closed the old department store credit card years ago and didn’t request a new card.  What should I do?

Answer

Here’s the bottom line: It is illegal for a credit card company, store, or other entity to send you a credit card you did not request.

Companies May Try to Circumvent the Law

These days, most companies don’t send out straight-forward unsolicited credit cards. But some companies try to get around the law by sending:

  • “replacement” credit cards for store cards that are no longer active, or
  • prepaid cards that can be linked to credit accounts.

Sending these types of cards, if unsolicited, still violates the law.

Replacement Cards on Active Accounts Are Permitted

However, companies are permitted to send replacement cards for active credit card accounts, even if the new cards are usable at more stores or have different features. 

What to Do With Unsolicited Credit Cards

Don’t just throw an unsolicited card in the trash. Here’s why:

  • It could be the result of identity theft. If that’s the case, you’ll need to take steps to prevent further fraud on other accounts (To learn more, visit our Identity Theft topic area.)
  • If you do nothing, the account will likely appear on your credit report as an open line of credit for whatever amount you were granted by the card issuer. Some creditors refuse credit to people they believe already have too much credit. Having an unused account could be grounds for denying you future accounts you do want or limiting increases on existing accounts.

Here’s what to do:

Call the Company. Make a copy of the card and then call the company and inform it of the following:

  • that you believe its sending you the unsolicited card violated the law
  • that you don’t want the card
  • that it must cancel the account, and
  • that it must provide you with written evidence that it did not, and will not, report the account to any credit reporting agency.

Send a confirmation letter. After you call, send a confirmation letter to the company (and keep a copy for your files), along with information about the credit card such as the account number and name on the account.

Cut up the card.

File a complaint. Send a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (visit www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint) or the Federal Trade Commission (visit https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov).

Check your credit report. Wait a few weeks, then get your credit report and check to be sure the account is not on your report. (To learn how to get your credit report, visit our Credit Reports & Credit Scores topic area.)

For more information on credit cards and how to shop and use them, visit our Banking & Credit Cards topic area.

Excerpted in part from Solve Your Money Troubles by Margaret Reiter and Robin Leonard (Nolo).

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