Change is a part of life, including your financial life. Our addresses change, our phone numbers change and sometimes even our names change. When these changes happen, it’s important to update the relevant personal information on your accounts. Not doing so could make you vulnerable to identity theft and other hazards.
Identity theft, of course, turns into identity fraud when your stolen information is used for unauthorized purchases or other financial crimes. The Center for Victim Research reports that one of the most common forms of identity fraud is credit card fraud and that victims lost up to $1,700 on average when their identity was compromised.
Money is not the only thing at stake when it comes to your credit. Your credit score could also be impacted if your information is not up to date. For example, if your bill is sent to your old address and you’re late on your payment, your credit score is at risk of going down and the late payment could show on your report for years.
How (and why) to update your address
Your billing address is the address connected to your credit card and is used by your card issuer to send out your statements and bills. Your credit card statement and bill contain vital information about your account. This is not information you want in the hands of a stranger.
Consider what might happen if you move and don’t notify your credit card issuer of the new address. New cards, billing statements and other important correspondence could wind up sitting in your old mailbox for anyone (including identity thieves) to find. For those who pay their credit card statements through the mail by check, not having that monthly envelope show up in your new mailbox could lead to missed payments.
To help prevent your personal information from getting “lost in the mail” in this way, contact your credit card issuer using any of these methods:
- By phone. Call the customer service number on your billing statement or the back of your card. Once you’re on the line with a representative, you’ll be asked to verify your identity by confirming current information on-file. This may include your current address, phone number, date of birth and card number. Once you’ve confirmed your identity, you can provide the representative with your new address. The representative will confirm that they have the correct information and will change your address in the system.
- If you have an online account for your credit card, you can also change your address electronically. You can do this by logging in to your account and looking for a menu that allows you to edit your account information. Once there, you can enter your new address and submit it immediately. Online address changes should go into effect within 24 hours of their submission.
- By mail. One more way to submit an address change is by using a physical copy of your credit card statement. You will usually find a space on the back of your statement where you can write in your new address and send it in with your payment. This option has the slowest turnaround time, taking a few business days before the change will register.
Another way to handle address changes is to set up mail forwarding with the Post Office. This may work for personal mail, but not all mail can be forwarded in this way. For example, new unactivated Capital One cards can’t be forwarded through the mail. They are returned to the company.
How to handle a name change
Naturally, the name on your credit card should match the name that you’re currently using. Merchants match this name to your government-issued identification to make sure that you are using a card that belongs to you. If you’ve recently married and taken your spouse’s last name (or legally changed your name for another reason), you will need to make sure that your card issuer is made aware.
- Find out your issuer’s confirmation policy. Card issuers have different policies for handling name changes, so you will need to call your card issuer to find out what you have to do. Citi allows changes over the phone, and American Express gives you the option of changing your name online. Other companies like Chase and Capital One require a phone call.
- Have your documents ready. All companies will need to have some documentation, so be prepared to with updated IDs and Social Security information. You may also need other documents that show the reason for the name change, such as a marriage license or a divorce decree.
- Double-check the details. When you submit your name change, make sure that you have submitted the new name correctly. A single misspelling could put you back at square one.
Follow up on your updated information
After submitting changes to your personal information, make sure you follow up with the credit card issuer to ensure that the changes have gone into effect.
- Log in to your online account or give the issuer a call. Also, double-check your credit card statement when it arrives to make sure that the information there is up to date.
- If you’re being issued a new card, keep an eye on your mailbox. If it hasn’t shown up in 3-5 business days, contact the company to find out where they sent the card. If a card hasn’t shown up within 10 days of it being sent, you should cancel the card and have the company send another one. It’s likely that the card was sent to the wrong address.
- Make sure you destroy any old cards by cutting them up before you throw them away. Do the same with credit card statements by running them through a shredder.
One last step to make sure that your credit information is up to date and hasn’t been compromised is to keep an eye on your credit report. Bankrate offers a credit report tool that updates weekly and notifies you of any changes that might require your attention.
Staying current, intact and secure
A new name, a new address — this kind of change can seriously complicate your personal finances if you don’t update your information. Always make sure to let your credit card issuer know as soon as possible to keep your accounts current, your credit score intact and your identity secure.