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Lost Debit Card: What to Do Today, Tomorrow and Next Week

Don’t panic, but do act ASAP: Report or freeze the missing card, follow up with your bank in writing and watch your account for unauthorized charges.
Banking, Checking Accounts
My Debit Card Is Missing — What Now?
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A lost debit card probably means one of two things: You 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 promptly, you’re legally protected from major losses from any unauthorized charges. Skip ahead to a list of banks’ customer service phone numbers.

Generally, a bank’s service representative will deactivate the card and issue a replacement, but you may want to ask about the option of a temporary freeze. If you’re provided a confirmation number during the call, make a note of it.

Jot down the details of any fraudulent charges, including the amount, merchant, location and processing date, and inform your bank or credit union.

Some big banks offer the option of “locking” your card via their mobile apps 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.

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.

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 days but may come with an additional fee. If you’re in desperate need of cash, visit a branch. Members of credit unions that take part in shared branching can withdraw funds from other participating credit unions.

Tomorrow: Follow up with a written confirmation

After you call your bank or credit union, you may want to follow up by email or letter, repeating the information you’ve already provided, including the date and time of your original report, plus the details of any questionable charges. (You can use any secure messaging service that the bank offers, including online or mobile apps.)

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: Wait 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, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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 strong fraud protections you get with 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, according to the CFPB, but there may be some variation. Review the fine-print information for each card to see the protections it offers.

» Love to shop the web? Find out the best way to pay: Credit card vs. debit card: Which is safer online?

How to reduce your risk in future

Taking precautions now can help reduce your risk of any future losses in case your debit card gets misplaced or stolen.

  • 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.

Customer service numbers

BankPhone number
Bank of America800-432-1000
BB&T800-226-5228
Capital One877-383-4802
Citibank800-374-9700
JPMorgan Chase800-935-9935
PNC Bank888-762-2265
SunTrust800-786-8787
TD Bank888-751-9000
U.S. Bank800-872-2657
Wells Fargo800-869-3557

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Updated Dec. 15, 2017.

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