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What to Do If You Lose Your Credit Card

Jan. 7, 2014
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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A credit card is such a small thing: a slip of plastic, so easy to overlook as it skitters away while being stuffed into a pocket, or as it’s knocked off a check stand in a rush to get home. But it can cause outsize alarm if it goes missing.

If your credit card is AWOL and you’ve searched for it to no avail, take these steps to limit your losses, and your stress level.

Don’t panic

Federal law caps your total liability for a stolen or lost credit card at $50. Moreover, many credit card companies have zero-liability policies whereby you’re not on the hook for a single cent. Even in a worst-case scenario, you’ll probably be OK.

Lock your card

Many major card issuers allow you to lock or freeze your credit card via a mobile app or website. That prevents new charges to the physical card — although recurring automatic charges will still go through. Locking a card gives you time to determine whether the card is lost for good before contacting your credit card company.

Do call your card issuer

When it comes to limiting your liability, time is of the essence. If you report your credit card lost before someone has a chance to use it, you won’t be liable for their expenditures. As noted, though, if they make purchases before you report the card missing, you could be liable for up to $50 in unauthorized purchases.

The situation is worse for debit cards. According to the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), if you report your missing card within two business days after you discover it’s missing, your liability for unauthorized purchases is $50. If you miss the two-day window but report it within 60 days of receiving your billing statement, your liability shoots up to $500. If you wait beyond the 60-day period, you may be liable for all unauthorized purchases.

» MORE: How to dispute fraudulent credit card charges

Communicate and keep records

Most card issuers are available 24/7 to assist you with reporting your lost credit card, and appreciate the chance to limit losses. You can find your issuer’s phone numbers on its website or on your billing statements. Be prepared to cite the date and time you realized your card was missing. If you notice any discrepancies on your billing statement, mention that as well, and keep all relevant documents handy in case you need to answer any specific questions.

Major credit card issuers’ hotlines

Bank Number
American Express 1-800-992-3404
Bank of America 1-800-732-9194
Barclaycard 1-877-523-0478
Capital One 1-800-955-7070
Chase 1-800-432-3117
Citibank 1-800-950-5114
Discover 1-800-347-2683
U.S. Bank 1-800-285-8585
Wells Fargo 1-800-642-4720

What’s next

Once you’ve reported your card missing, your issuer will take the necessary steps to replace it. Your account won’t be canceled — good news for your credit score — but the old card will no longer be associated with your account. Provided you pay off anything you’re liable for, your credit won’t be negatively impacted.

Losing your credit card can be a distressing experience, but by acting quickly you can avoid taking a financial hit over unauthorized purchases. Contact your issuer as soon as you realize the card is missing, spare no detail when you report it, and keep records of all communication between you and your creditor. And take a deep, cleansing breath: Soon your lost card will be blocked and your replacement card will be on its way.