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What I Learned From Changing My Name on My Credit Cards

You'll have to jump through some tedious preliminary hoops — and then you'll need to know your issuer's specific policy.
Dec. 17, 2018
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
What I Learned From Changing My Name on My Credit Cards
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I thought that changing my name on all my credit cards after marriage would be straightforward. Countless newlyweds did the same thing every year, I figured. And that’s to say nothing of the many people who go through a similar process after changing their names for various other reasons — for example, to switch surnames after a divorce. How tedious could it be?

Very tedious, as it turns out. Especially if you have a wallet full of credit cards.

The thing is, there’s no “quick and easy” way to change a name, especially one you’ve been using for over 20 years. And updating that information on several accounts proved more time-consuming than I expected. Here’s what I learned from the process.

Avoid so-called ‘shortcuts’

Before I updated the name on my credit cards, I needed to officially change my name on my Social Security card and driver’s license. So after procrastinating for six months after getting married, I finally did the paperwork and went from “Claire Marie Davidson” to “Claire Davidson Tsosie” in 2016. (My husband’s last name is Tsosie.)

I looked into online services with zingy names that claimed they’d do the heavy lifting and minimize the bureaucratic tedium. But ultimately, it’ll likely still require significant effort on your part.

During the name-change process, I searched high and low for shortcuts. I looked into online services with zingy names that claimed they’d do the heavy lifting and minimize the bureaucratic tedium. But ultimately, those services didn’t seem worthwhile. While they made it faster to prepare some of the name-change paperwork, I found that I’d still have to complete some forms on my own and visit the California Department of Motor Vehicles myself.

If you’re changing your name, I’d recommend being skeptical of pricey services like these. Sure, they might make the process marginally smoother, but it’ll likely still require significant effort on your part. Save your money, I say.

» MORE: A post-wedding name-change guide

Double-check for mistakes upfront

After receiving my new Social Security card in the mail, my first job was to go to the DMV and update the name on my driver’s license. It was only when I returned home from my lengthy DMV appointment that I made a horrifying realization: The interim driver’s license I went home with read “Claire Marie Tsosie” instead of my actual name, “Claire Davidson Tsosie.”

It would be nice to trust that everyone is careful and detail-oriented when updating your important personal information. But if someone else messes up your name, it could leave you in the lurch.

I called the DMV and asked if I could change it, but was told that I’d have to wait to receive my incorrect driver’s license in the mail, then set up another appointment at the DMV to correct my name.

Sigh.

Another eight months passed, and I finally made another appointment at the DMV to correct the error. It was a total drag. But it also made me realize the importance of double-checking changes, which came in handy later when I was updating my name on all my credit cards.

Of course, it would be nice to trust that everyone is careful and detail-oriented when updating your important personal information. But if someone else messes up your name, it could leave you in the lurch — say, because the name on your credit card is misspelled and doesn’t match the name on any of your other IDs, for example.

After this kerfuffle, I made a habit of confirming all the changes made on my accounts so I could catch mistakes before getting new cards.

» MORE: Getting a new spouse? Keep your old credit cards

Know your issuer’s policies: Here are some

After mustering enough motivation to jump through the preliminary hoops, I started working on updating the information on all my credit cards.

I quickly found out that the process varied from bank to bank.

Inspired to finish the task quickly, I spent most of a Saturday afternoon calling the customer service numbers for each of my issuers and asking what I had to do. I quickly found out that the process varied from bank to bank. A few experiences I encountered:

  • Citi: They changed my name right away over the phone and mailed me a new card. Pretty easy.
  • Bank of America®: I had to visit a branch to change my name. It took about an hour to get to a branch, wait in line and complete all the paperwork.
  • Chase: The customer service representative I spoke with said she’d mail me a form, and that I could return by mail or fax. Faxing that name-change form has been on my to-do list for three years now. (Step 1: Learn how to send a fax?)
  • American Express: I changed my name online and uploaded a photo of my new driver’s license, and AmEx sent me a new card. The online form was pretty intuitive.

The following week, I also worked on updating my name on my airline and hotel loyalty program accounts associated with some of my co-branded cards.

In my experience, calling issuers to inquire about changing your name can sometimes take 30 minutes each or longer, especially if you have to stay on hold, navigate through phone trees or get transferred to multiple departments. If you have several accounts to update, I recommend taking care of just one or two accounts a day to make the process less stressful. In some cases, you might not even need to make a phone call; for example, with AmEx, you can complete the entire process online.

Where to complete your name change: Online

Fill out a name-change authorization form via your online portal. Click the “edit” button next to your name to bring up the form. You’ll need to upload an image of a document reflecting your new name, such as a state-issued identification card, driver’s license or U.S. passport, according to the issuer’s website. You’ll automatically get a new card sent to you after the request is processed.

Where to complete your name change: In a bank branch

Visit a Bank of America® location and bring government-issued ID and documentation regarding your name change. Bank of America® lists the documents you’ll need for this visit online. If you don’t live near a Bank of America® branch, the issuer recommends calling 800-432-1000.

Where to complete your name change: Fax or mail

Send a letter explaining your name-change request along with one of the following documents to show proof of your name change: court document (naturalization papers, marriage license, divorce decree, etc.), driver’s license, state-issued ID, green card, Social Security card, permanent resident card. Barclays doesn’t have a form for this process, the issuer confirmed; you need to include a note with the required documents. You can fax these to 866-823-8178 or mail to this address:

Attn: Correspondence
P.O. Box 8801
Wilmington, DE 19899

The correspondence team will respond upon the receipt of the documentation within two days, and a replacement card will be issued, the issuer confirms.

Where to complete your name change: Phone or mail

The process for changing your name depends on the account status and the type of name change being requested, the issuer confirms. If the change is due to marriage or divorce, a prefix or suffix change or a typing correction, you call customer relations at 800-955-7070 to request the change. The line is open 24/7. For U.S. accounts, if the change is for any other legal reason, you’ll need to send your request in writing along with proof of the change to the general correspondence department, the issuer says.

Where to complete your name change: Fax or mail

To change your name on a card after a legal name change, start by calling the number on your card or 800-432-3117. You’ll need to fax or mail supporting documentation to complete the change, which may include court documents for the name change, driver’s license, Social Security card, passport or naturalization papers. Once the required documents are received, the change should be processed in about five business days, the issuer confirms.

Where to complete your name change: Phone or mail

The process for changing your name depends on the type of change being requested. Call the number on the back of your card to request an update. In some cases, changes can be processed over the phone. In other cases, you might have to send in supporting documents, which will generally be processed within five days of receiving the request.

Where to complete your name change: Phone or secure messaging

To change your name on your credit card, cardholders can call 800-DISCOVER or send a message through the issuer’s secure inbox after logging on to Discover.com or on the mobile app. The documentation required varies based on the request and will be confirmed when the request is made. Changes are processed immediately after changes are verified, and cards are usually delivered in five to seven business days, the issuer confirms.

Where to complete your name change: Phone; supporting documents can be uploaded online, mailed or faxed

To change your name on your credit card, call 800-531-USAA. If supporting documents are needed, you may be asked to provide a form of state-issued identification such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, identification card or marriage license. You can upload necessary documents on usaa.com or send them to USAA via mail or fax. Most changes are made immediately upon request or upon receipt if additional documents are needed.

Where to complete your name change: Fax or mail

Requests for name changes can be initiated by phone, in a bank branch or in writing. Customers must complete a legal name change form, which they can submit by mail or fax, confirms the issuer. This form must include a copy of one of the following: a marriage certificate, passport, Social Security card or state driver’s license. Once the request is received, it will be processed in 10 to 14 business days, according to the issuers.

 

Prepare to do some explaining

Changing your name isn’t instantaneous. There’s not really a “before” and “after” to this process; there are just various shades of in-between. During that transitional period, some of my documents said I was “Claire Marie Davidson” while others said I was “Claire Davidson Tsosie” — and at least one said I was “Claire Marie Tsosie” (thanks, DMV). I had to explain the differences fairly often to customer service representatives, cashiers and others. That’s when I realized it was useful to have some supporting paperwork in tow.

I started carrying my marriage certificate around with me just in case I was asked to show ID when using a credit card that had a name that didn’t match the name on my driver’s license.

I started carrying my marriage certificate around with me just in case I was asked to show ID when using a credit card that had a name that didn’t match the name on my driver’s license. When questions inevitably came up, I was prepared: I’d show the person behind the counter my marriage certificate and driver’s license, explaining why my name changed.

For me, that paperwork made those interactions a little more efficient. I found that generally, people were really reasonable and understanding. My cards were accepted without a problem.

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