There are several movies and tv shows in which a character attempts to use a credit card, only to find that it's been cancelled. This usually results in the card being cut up. In the trailer for the movie Identity Thief, they even went so far as to state that they are required to cut up the card.

Does this actually happen in real life? Do businesses actually require denied cards to be cut up? Or is this just a trope that's been passed along in movies?

  • I tried to add a credit-card tag but I don't have the rep.
    – DForck42
    Jan 22, 2013 at 18:22
  • 5
    Many cards belong to the issuer, not the customer. Still, I've had expired cards, and tried to use them, without their seizure or destruction. In my opinion that would constitute rude customer service, and in the movies it seems to emphasize a scene where the character faces hardship.
    – Paul
    Jan 22, 2013 at 20:16
  • 1
    @Paul - indeed, all my cards have a statement when I first get them in the fine print that the card stays the property of my bank at all time. Jan 22, 2013 at 20:20
  • If a card gets stolen and reported to the CC Issuer the merchant will be told to take the card. They will not destroy the card though instead it will be returned to the CC Issuer.
    – Chad
    Jan 22, 2013 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


Do businesses actually require denied cards to be cut up?

Not required, but some credit-card providers do advise merchants to cut up fraudulently-used cards.

Merchant Operating Instructions for reducing Fraud

If the Authorisation Centre asks you to retain the card
Explain politely that the card issuer has asked you to hold onto the card.


Preserving evidence
- Preserve the card:
- Don't cut the card in half!
- Handle it by the edges so as to preserve fingerprints. Cut off the bottom left-hand corner (as seen from the front).
- Don't damage any other part of the card. Handle it as little as possible and place it in a plastic bag or envelope until you can give it to the Police.

Card Acceptance Guidelines for Visa Merchants

Tell the cardholder you have been instructed to keep the card, and that he or she may call the card issuer for more information .


Cut the card according to acquirer procedures

Other Business just require merchants to retain the card.

MasterCard Rules

If the Merchant receives a “capture card” or “pick-up-card” response to an authorization request, the Merchant must not complete the Transaction. The Merchant must retain the Card by reasonable and peaceful means,

You don't have any ownership rights to the card.

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