Credit cards rank pretty high on the list of things you hate to lose, somewhere between your kids and car keys. A lost or stolen credit card has the potential to cause a lot of damage, especially if you have a high credit limit. Because the last thing you want is damage to your credit at someone else’s hand, it’s crucial that you know what to do when your credit card has been lost or stolen.
Reporting Your Lost or Stolen Credit Card
The first thing you should do is report your missing credit card to the card issuer as soon as you notice the card is missing. Don’t wait a day or even a minute.
Locate a recent copy of your credit card statement to find the number to reach your card issuer. Alternatively, if you have online access for your credit card, you may be able to use the website to report your missing credit card. Just make sure you use your credit card issuer's true website and not an imposter site.
When you contact your creditor, you should have the following:
- your account number (your creditor can lookup your account using your social security number)
- the date you noticed your card was missing
- the date and amount of your last purchase, if you know it
After you’ve contacted the card issuer by phone, it’s wise to follow-up with a letter stating that your credit card was lost or stolen and include the account number, date of loss or theft, first date the loss was reported, and the last authorized transaction. This letter will provide proof that you reported the loss and the time of the report should that fact ever come into question.
Dealing With Unauthorized Charges
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects you when fraudulent charges are made with your lost or stolen credit card. Under federal law, if unauthorized charges are made with your credit card, the maximum amount you can be liable for is $50. If the charges are made after you report the card lost or stolen, you have no liability. However, if the charges are made before you report the loss, your creditor can ask you to pay up to $50. That’s why it’s important to report your missing credit card as soon as possible.
Many credit card issuers have a fraud protection benefit that eliminates your liability for any fraudulent charges as long as the card is reported missing within a certain period of time. Ask your creditor if such a benefit applies to your account.
Review your billing statement for a few months after the loss to catch any unauthorized charges made using your credit card. If you see any charges that you did not make, report them to your creditor immediately.
Preventing Future Loss
- Knowing where your credit cards are at all times is one of the best ways to avoid a lost or stolen credit card. Carry the credit cards that you’ll need and leave the others at home in a secure place. Check periodically to make sure you still have all your credit cards.
- Avoid placing credit cards directly into your pockets. It’s easier for them to slip out.
- Make sure your cards fit snugly inside the slots of your wallet. If the slots have become loose or worn, consider purchasing a new, stiffer wallet that will hold your credit cards securely in place.
- If your credit cards are inside a wallet or bag, always keep it closed and close to you. The FBI once prosecuted a thief who crawled under movie theater seats to steal credit cards from women's purses.
- Create a contact list including the name and number of all your card issuers. Store the list in a safe place so you can easily reach your card issuers if a credit card is lost or stolen in the future. You don't have to write your credit card numbers on the list - and it's probably safer not to write the full number on the list - since your card issuer can typically locate your account using other personal information.