When you can’t find your bank debit card, one of two things may have happened: You misplaced it, or someone stole it. But don’t let panic set in. Take the necessary steps to limit any immediate damage and to protect yourself from further risk.
Liability in case of debit card theft
The first thing to do is report the missing card to the issuer, typically your bank or credit union. Debit cards don’t have the strong fraud protections you get with credit cards. Federal law limits liability for a stolen or lost bank debit card, but only if you act quickly. If you contact your financial institution within two business days of the discovery and fraudulent charges have already been made, the most you’ll be responsible for is $50. Wait longer, and your liability rises to $500. And 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 U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but it’s not legally required. So make sure you check the fine print to see what kinds of protection you get for each of your cards.
Steps to take
1. Report the loss or theft
Whether your bank debit card was lost or stolen, report the loss to your financial institution as soon as you determine the card can’t be found. Make sure that your debit card is canceled and that a new card, with a new number, is sent to you.
2. Report bogus charges
Check your recent payment history for transactions you didn’t make and, if you find any, note the details, including the merchant, location and the processing date. Call your financial institution and give it the specifics of the fraudulent transactions, and the date and time you originally reported that your card was gone.
Your card issuer typically has 10 business days to investigate and another three to report its findings to you in writing, according to the consumer 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. From there, the bank may have as much as 90 days to resolve the issue, depending on the nature of the transactions.
3. Follow up
After calling to report a phony transaction, you may want to follow up by email or letter, repeating all the information you’ve given. This serves as your written confirmation of the report, which the card issuer may request if it conducts an investigation. If you don’t have it, you may not be credited for any losses. You can use any secure messaging service that the bank offers, including online or mobile apps.
In the future
You can reduce your risk of future debit card losses by taking a few precautions.
- Keep your bank’s information accessible. You won’t have the customer service number printed on the back of your card when it’s lost or stolen. Write that number down, along with your account information, and put it somewhere safe but where you can get to it quickly.
- Monitor transactions. If you don’t already have one, set up a way to look for any suspicious transactions in your checking account at least weekly.
By following these steps, you can ensure that a missing debit card doesn’t lead to a financial catastrophe.
This post was updated. It was originally published on April 25, 2014.
Image via iStock.