When you lose a loved one, it can be incredibly difficult to process your loss while also taking care of important administrative duties in their name. Understandably, addressing their financial matters may be one of the last things on your mind but it is nevertheless a key piece of closing their estate. If you don’t know where to start, you may find our checklist on what to do following the death of a loved one helpful. Eventually, you’ll find yourself at the juncture where you need to settle up open accounts on their behalf. This guide will walk you through how to notify credit card companies of death, which will help protect their legacy from fraud and theft.
How do credit card companies get notified when someone dies?
When someone passes away, their credit cards don’t close automatically. The three major nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) will seal credit reports and add a death notice when they are notified of a person’s death.
This notification can happen through one of two methods: either the Executor of the deceased person’s estate or through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Executors and court-appointed Personal Representatives are strongly encouraged to reach out proactively to at least one of the three major credit bureaus, if not all, to make sure that the deceased person’s credit report is promptly flagged.
Why do you need to notify credit card companies when someone dies?
You must notify credit card companies when an individual passes away because they aren’t notified automatically. You can notify a credit bureau, but you also have the option of notifying the credit card companies directly. Here, you may be wondering why this is important.
Leaving a credit card account open after the death of a loved one puts their estate at risk. Hackers and other predators who commit fraud and/or identity theft could target the deceased person’s account at a time when it is vulnerable.
Here’s an overview of essential reasons to close down credit cards promptly following a death:
Prevent unauthorized use
Settle outstanding balances
Prevent interest from building up
Protect the credit report
Prevent collection efforts
Protect against fraud and identity theft
Settle the estate
What to do when a credit card holder dies
When a credit card holder passes away, their credit card companies should be notified right away so that their accounts can be closed down. It’s easy to push this task aside, but know that timing is of the essence. Discussed earlier on, credit cards and other financial accounts are vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves. Many specifically target deceased individuals' accounts that are often left unattended, going so far as to troll obituaries and death announcements.
Oftentimes, we procrastinate on important tasks because we don’t know how to get started, especially when feeling overwhelmed. That’s understandable!
We’ve helped remove this block by breaking down the actions steps for you. When a credit card holder passes away, follow these simple steps:
Organize all of the deceased’s financial documents
Get copies of the death certificate
Call, message, or email credit card companies to close accounts
Stop recurring charges, if possible
Request a credit freeze from the credit bureaus
In the following sections, we explain each of these action items in further detail.
1. Organize all of the deceased’s financial documents
The first actionable step after a credit card holder passes away is to organize all of their financial documents. If you’re the Executor, surviving spouse, or other court-appointed representative, then you can also obtain a copy of the deceased’s credit report. This is an effective way to access a list of all of the open credit and loan accounts in their name, including the respective financial holding companies.
Some individuals have accounts that they forgot about or didn’t even know about. Obtaining this report, plus sorting through any documents that they had on file, is a necessary part of the discovery process to make sure you identify any and all existing accounts.
2. Get copies of the death certificate
Next, we recommend obtaining multiple official copies of the death certificate for various purposes, such as sending them to credit card companies, life insurance providers, and other estate-related matters. It's worth noting that while the funeral director responsible for your loved one's burial or cremation can assist you in obtaining copies of the death certificate, be aware that each official copy comes at a cost, the amount of which varies by location.
3. Call, message, or email credit card companies to close accounts
Contact the decedent’s credit card companies to close open accounts as soon as possible. Not only will this help stop future interest and finance charges, it will help prevent fraud and identity theft. If you own any joint credit cards with the decedent, notify the holding company that a joint owner has passed away such that they can be removed from the account.
You can find the credit card company’s contact information on the back of the card itself, or on their website.
When you contact the credit card companies, make sure you obtain a receipt of the communication. For example, obtain a copy of the email conversation or live support chat history. If you contact them by phone, record the conversation identification number as well as the name of the support representative.
Obtain the mailing address to which you should send supporting documentation, including a certified copy of the death certificate. When you mail these out, make sure to obtain a tracking number and receipt.
4. Stop recurring charges, if possible
Many businesses offer a subscription-based model, so it’s common for consumers to have recurring charges on their credit cards when they pass away. To prevent future automatic charges, be sure to cancel their accounts and subscriptions. Examples include utilities, cell phone bills, and subscription services such as groceries, home supplies, and entertainment.
5. Request a credit freeze from the credit bureaus
Last but not least, contact all three of the major national credit bureaus and request a credit freeze. This helps prevent anyone from opening new credit cards or accounts in the name of the deceased. (They can do so if they know their name, Social Security Number, and other personal information.) Follow up your request by mail, and don't forget to obtain a tracking number and receipt. The credit report should be flagged with the notice “Deceased. Do Not Issue Credit.”
Here are the names and phone numbers for the three major credit bureaus:
Commonly asked questions about notifying credit card companies of death
Next, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions on the topic of notifying credit card companies following a death. Keep reading to pick up some more helpful knowledge and tips!
Should you notify credit card company when someone dies?
Yes, you should notify credit card companies when a credit card holder passes away. This ensures you protect their identity, as well as protect their accounts from fraud and theft. By closing the accounts, you can also put a stop to future charges, including interest charges and recurring charges.
If you are a joint account holder of a credit card, you should also notify credit card companies of the death of a joint owner.
Do credit bureaus notify creditors of death?
Once you notify a credit bureau of the death, the decedent’s credit report will be flagged with a notice of their death. This helps prevent fraud, and lenders will be alerted of the death. If anyone tries to apply for new credit, the lenders will know that they are attempting fraud and identity theft, and will presumably follow appropriate protocol.
What to cancel after someone dies?
Wondering what else you should cancel following the death of a loved one? Here’s a checklist of suggestions for your reference:
Cell Phone Contracts
Automatic Prescription Refills
Mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service
Online accounts (email, social media, entertainment services, etc.)
Make handling your financial accounts easy with Trust & Will
This guide went over how to notify credit card companies of a death, and why it’s so important to do so promptly. For someone you love, you’ll want to make sure to put a stop to any future charges, as well as protect their finances and identity from fraud and theft. It’s quite easy to notify the credit card companies; be sure to obtain copies of your loved one’s death certificate for proof of their passing. Simply contact the major credit bureaus to have their credit report flagged, and contact each financial company listed on the report to notify them of the death. Be prepared to mail a certified copy of the death certificate to each company.
Going through this process will drive home the importance of keeping your own affairs in order. Creating a digital estate plan, complete with access to important information and documents such as passwords, access to accounts, and financial records will make it much easier for your loved ones to find access. Find out how Trust & Will members can create their Will, Trust, and store them alongside critical documents in our digital vault that is protected with bank-level encryption here.
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