Editorial Policy

6 Creative Uses for Old Credit Cards

Allie Johnson

July 31, 2013

Do you simply cut up and toss your expired credit cards, used gift cards and defunct store loyalty cards? If so, you might want to think about giving your old cards a new life.

The average American has about two credit cards, according to 2012 research from Experian. And a June 2013 survey by the Retail Gift Card Association found that more than 91 percent of respondents planned to give one to three gift cards over the following three months. Add store loyalty cards to the mix, and that's a lot of plastic.

Most cards are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and throwing them away can take a toll on the environment.

“Plastic takes centuries to degrade in a landfill,” says Anna Hackman, editor of the green living website Green Talk, who uses old gift cards to make labels for the seedlings for her garden.

Want to put your old cards to good use, too? Here are six ways to repurpose your plastic:

1. Adorn yourself. Making jewelry is one of the most popular uses for old cards, and there are lots of possibilities. You can make earrings, necklaces and bracelets using your old plastic. A craft blogger, Vicki O'Dell, aka “The Creative Goddess,” has a tutorial on how to use old gift cards, a glue gun and some metallic inks to create a necklace that's definitely a statement piece.

Vicki O'Dell (The Creative Goddess) used old Starbucks gift cards to create this necklace. | Photo courtesy of Vicki O'Dell

2. Get organized. Make a cut here, punch a hole there and suddenly you've turned your old card into an organizing aid. For example, those earbuds you need to watch movies on your phone or listen to music on your iPod can easily get tangled up, especially when tossed in a bag or pocket. So, technology writer Jesse Leikin created an earbud holder from an old credit card by using a utility knife and a drill.

Another possibility: Instructables.com has instructions for how to use an old card to keep your computer or stereo cords organized. Old cards work well for these types of projects, says Mike Warren, editor and community manager for Instructables.

“The plastic is soft enough to be cut with scissors, yet strong enough to resist a lot of wear and tear,” he says.

3. Clean your house. For security reasons, it's not smart to leave an old credit card, even an expired one, lying around your house. But old cards can make great thrifty cleaning tools. For example, Instructables recommends keeping a few old cards near your kitchen sink and using them to scrape stuck-on food off the bottoms of pots and pans. Consumers on frugal living websites such as Thrifty Fun also report using old plastic to scrape labels off of new glasses and dishes, decals off of window panes and gum off of the floor. You can also use cleaning solution, a rag and an old card to get dust or gunk out of nooks, crannies and edges.

“Gift cards can get a new life again if modified into something useful.” Warren says.

4. Decorate your space. Once your home is sparkling clean, you might want to use your expired plastic to beautify your space. Old cards can be used to make household items and art. Simply cutting a rectangle, heart, circle or other shape from the middle of an old credit card creates an instant mini picture frame. If you want it to stand up, you can simply heat the card with a blow dryer and then bend the bottom of the card to create a stand before cutting out the center. CraftStylish.com, meanwhile, has instructions for making a mosaic picture or mirror frame from old cards.

“Most gift cards are colorful and fun and can lend themselves to being mixed with other media to create new things,” Warren says.

5. Use it as a tool. Next time you're in a pinch, you might be able to solve your problem by grabbing expired plastic. If you live in a cold climate, it might be a good idea to stick an old gift card in your glove box, just in case you ever lose your snow scraper. If you ever get locked out of your bathroom or bedroom, Instructables.com has directions on how to use a card to jimmy open a door. Is your hair falling in your face? The site also has instructions for how to use an old card and a pen or chopsticks to make yesterday's Chinese take-out a hair clip. And your dentist might not approve, but old cards can even be made into a set of toothpicks.

6. Make it personal. Old credit and debit cards have your name on them, so they can provide a fun way to personalize your stuff. CraftCrossing.com has a tutorial on making luggage tags with a gift card — but, a credit card could be used too, if you cut off the number but keep the name. Meanwhile, Yuka Yoneda, of Closette.com, made a pretty name necklace using an old credit card.

“Old credit cards or gift cards are a good material for any resourceful maker,” Warren says, noting that it's a good idea to keep old cards on hand for DIY projects and other uses. “Recycling is good, but upcycling is better.”