If you’re unfortunate enough to have lost your debit card or credit card, it’s not the end of the world. But things get worse as time passes, particularly for debit cards, if you don’t react quickly.
So don’t delay. Everything you need to know is covered in this post.
Federal regulations limit your liability
The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you report the loss or theft of a credit card or debit card immediately. Ditto if you discover a charge on your bank or credit card statement that you didn’t make.
Because of The Fair Credit Billing Act, the most that you can be charged for unauthorized charges on your credit card is $50. Many major credit card issuers go one step further and offer zero liability for their cards.
Because of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, the liability for lost debit cards increases dramatically with time. This is particularly true if your card or your account number is used by someone to make an unauthorized purchase before you report it.
Remember, unlike the loan that you receive each time you use your credit card, a debit card debits your bank account. So it’s your money that someone else might be spending.
Report the loss, then follow up
All of the information you need to report a lost or stolen card is on the back of the card. Of course, you no longer have the card with that 1 – 800 number you need to call. That presents an immediate problem.
You’re not the first person to lose a card, so every bank has a dedicated page on their website that will show you exactly what to do to report a lost card. Just go online and Google, “I lost my Wells Fargo debit card” or “I lost my Chase debit card.” You get the idea.
I did this for several different banks, and the page that contained the 1 – 800 number was at the top of the page for each of them. Call this number and get the process started.
How much are you responsible for?
If you report the loss or theft to your debit card issuer before someone illicitly uses it, then your responsibility is zero for any unauthorized transactions that follow.
But if you don’t report your card missing or stolen within two business days after you discover it gone, your responsibility for fraudulent charges rises to $50. Wait 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you and you can be tapped for $500 of the stolen amount.
Interestingly, special treatment is given if your credit card or debit card number is stolen, rather than the card itself. For credit card numbers, there is zero liability for any unauthorized transactions. The same applies to your debit card, but only if you report the fraudulent transaction within 60 days of receiving your statement.
After your initial call to your debit card issuer, the FTC recommends that you follow up with a letter sent by certified mail with a return receipt. Also, document the dates of calls that you made and keep copies of the letter you sent.
Follow this advice to be better prepared
A lost debit card or credit card can produce some intense feelings of loss and vulnerability, so it’s good to be prepared to react should it ever occur.
Before this awful scenario helps itself to your peace of mind, it’s a good idea to take a photo of the front and back of all of your credit cards. Alternatively, you can “old school” it and write down the pertinent information. Just be sure to keep it in a safe place. NOT in the purse or wallet where you carry your cards.
The most important info to record for each of your cards is the:
- Credit or debit card issuer
- Account number
- Expiration date
- Three digit verification code on back
- Issuer’s toll free number
Keep all this info in a place that’s safe but readily retrievable (particularly if you’re traveling).
ONE MORE THING TO KEEP AN EYE ONE
Get into the habit of frequently checking your online credit card and bank statements from your issuers’ websites. Don’t wait for your monthly paper statement to discover a questionable charge that you might have caught weeks earlier had you been more vigilant.
Don’t carry any more cards than you need
The fewer cards you carry, the less you have to lose, so consider leaving rarely used cards at home until you need them. Never write your debit card PIN on anything that you carry with you. Memorize it.
Lastly, consider using your credit card for all of your debit card purchases. Credit card transactions are loans from the card issuing company. This means you will never have to worry about your bank account being drained without your knowledge. And you won’t suffer the liability you could incur if your checking (debit) account is compromised.
Just remember to pay off that credit card balance EVERY SINGLE month.