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A lost debit card probably means one of two things: You either misplaced it or someone stole it. Either way, don’t let panic set in. Here’s what you can do.
Today: Report or lock the missing card
Report the loss to your bank or credit union as soon as you realize your debit card is missing. If you act quickly, you’re legally protected from major losses from any unauthorized charges. Skip to the end of the article for a list of bank customer service numbers.
Generally, a bank’s service representative will deactivate the card and issue a replacement. If you think the card is misplaced and there’s a good chance you’ll locate it soon, you may want to ask about the option of a temporary freeze. With a Wells Fargo lost card, for example, you can “lock” your card via a mobile app to prevent the card from being used. If the card turns up under your couch cushions after a few days, you can reactivate it easily. In the meantime, the lock will prevent unauthorized spending.
If you can’t find the card and believe it’s truly gone: Get it canceled and have a new one sent your way. Some financial institutions may charge a fee for the replacement. Getting the new card may take as long as one week, unless you request a rush delivery, which typically cuts the wait time to a couple of days but may come with an additional fee.
When you contact the bank, make a note of any confirmation number you receive. This will help you document the status of the account for future reference.
Inspect your account. Log in to your account on a computer or mobile device and check your recent payment history to see if there are any transactions you didn’t make. If you find any fraudulent charges, jot down the details, including the amount, merchant, location and processing date. Pass that information along to your financial institution.
Tomorrow: Follow up with a written confirmation
After you call your bank or credit union, follow up by email or letter, or use any secure messaging service that the bank offers, including online or mobile apps. Document information you’ve already provided, including the date and time of your original report, plus the details of any questionable charges.
This document serves as your written confirmation of the report, which the card issuer may request if it conducts an investigation. If you don’t have a confirmation, you may not be credited for any losses.
Next week: Monitor your account while the bank investigates
Your card issuer typically has 10 business days to investigate any bogus charges and an additional three days to report its findings to you.
If the investigation takes longer, the bank or credit union must temporarily credit your account for the disputed amount, minus a charge of up to $50. Then the bank may have up to 90 days to resolve the issue, depending on the nature of the transactions.
What you owe in case of debit card theft
Debit cards don’t have the same fraud protections as credit cards. Still, federal law limits the liability on fraudulent charges on a stolen or lost bank debit card, but only if you act quickly. The amount of money for which you’re on the hook is determined by how quickly you report the card as missing.
If you contact your financial institution within two business days of the discovery of the missing card and if fraudulent charges have already been made, the most you’ll be responsible for is $50.
If you wait longer to report, your liability increases to $500.
If you don’t inform your card issuer for more than 60 days after receiving your next statement, you’ll be on the hook for all unauthorized charges.
Many major prepaid debit card issuers offer similar protections, but there may be some variation. Review the fine-print information for each card to see the protections it offers.
Lowering your risk going forward
Take precautions now to help reduce your risk of any future losses.
Keep your information accessible. Write down the customer service number that’s on the back of the card, along with your account information, and save it in a safe, accessible place. In case your card is lost or stolen, you’ll have the information needed to report it to your financial institution.
Monitor transactions. Use online banking or a mobile app to keep an eye on your checking account on a daily basis. Take action if you come across any suspicious transactions.
By following these steps, you can ensure that a missing debit card doesn’t lead to something more serious.
Bank of America (read review)
Bank of Internet (read review)
Capital One (read review)
Citibank (read review)
Charles Schwab (read review)
Chase (read review)
Discover (read review)
PNC Bank (read review)
TD Bank (read review)
Wells Fargo (read review)
» Traveling abroad? Read what to do if you lose your debit card while overseas.