We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling in our stomach and the panic that ensues when we realize our credit or debit card is missing. But have no fear—federal law caps your total liability for a stolen or lost credit card at $50. What’s even better, many credit card companies have established zero-liability policies where you may not even be on the hook for a single cent if someone takes your card for a shopping spree. So now that you can breathe a sigh of relief, here’s what you should do if you lose your credit or debit card:
RETRACE YOUR STEPS
Put your thinking cap on and try to figure out the last place you used your card. Online shopping? Maybe it’s sitting on your desk. At a restaurant? Give them a call to see if you left it with the check. If you’ve explored every last avenue to try to find your card, move on to the next step—and quickly!
CALL YOUR CARD ISSUER
If you want to limit your liability, take action by calling your card issuer quickly. If you report your credit card lost before someone has a chance to use it, you won’t be liable for the bill that’s racked up. But remember—if charges start hitting your card before you report it lost or stolen, you could be on the hook for up to a $50 fee.
The situation gets a little worse for debit cards, so you’ll need to watch the clock. 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. But, if you miss the two-day window but report it within 60 days of receiving your billing statement, you may be on the hook for up to $500. If you wait beyond the 60-day period, you may be liable for all unauthorized charges.
STAY IN TOUCH AND KEEP RECORDS
Most credit card issuers are available 24/7 if you want to report your card as lost or stolen—not only does it help you, but it helps them limit their losses, too. To contact your issuer, check your statements or visit their website. Be prepared to tell them the exact date and time you realized your card was missing. If you notice anything funky on your statements, mention that too and keep all documents handy in case the issuer has specific questions.
The good news is that if you’ve made it this far in the process, the worst is over and your anxiety may begin to subside. Watch for your replacement card to arrive in the mail soon. However, be sure to update all of your auto payments associated with your credit card to your replacement card or a different card quickly so you don’t experience any service disruptions. Your credit score should also avoid a hit since your old credit card number will be canceled, so as long as you pay off anything you’re liable for, you should be in good shape.