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What to Do After You've Lost Your Debit Card

Many of us have experienced that heart-sinking moment when you get to the ATM or cash register only to discover you don’t have your debit card. Perhaps you dropped it in the parking lot or someone snagged it from your wallet. Either way, your missing debit card could pose some problems like missed rent payments and fraudulent charges. There’s no need to panic, though. Follow these steps to ensure your finances stay safe.

1. Check Your Account History

Whether your card was misplaced or stolen, log into your online banking account right away. Check your recent payment history for any transactions you don’t recognize. If you find anything fraudulent or unauthorized, write down the transaction details, like its amount, merchant, location and date. Even if it’s small, you’ll want to make note. Sometimes, scammers charge low amounts to your account as a test before they return for more or bigger purchases once those go through.

2. Contact Your Bank

Next, you’ll want to call the financial institution that issued your debit card. Let them know whether your card was lost or stolen. If you noted any unauthorized transactions earlier, be sure to report those to the bank including every detail. We’ve listed the customer service numbers for popular banks to help.

Bank If you’re in the U.S. If you’re abroad
Bank of America 1-800-432-1000 +1 315-724-4022
Capital One 1-888-810-4013 +1 804-967-1000
Charles Schwab 1-800-421-4488 +1 317-596-4501
Citibank 1-800-274-6660 +1 210-677-0065
Chase 1-800-935-9935 +1 713-262-3300
Wells Fargo 1-800-869-3557 +1 925-825-7600

It’s important to note that calling your bank from another country will likely come with its own extra costs. If we missed your bank, check your monthly statement or visit the bank’s website to find the right number. You may also be able to report lost or stolen cards online if your bank offers that feature.

3. Request a Solution

Your bank’s customer service representative will guide you through the problem, but be sure the call ends with a solution. Usually, that means deactivating the card. However, if you think the card might still turn up, you can ask about a “lock” or temporary freeze. This disables the card for a few days but makes it easy to reactivate if you find it in your laundry hamper in a few hours. Not every bank offers this service. It’s ideal in situations where you may be able to find your card but want to play it safe in case it’s really gone.

Of course, if you believe there’s no retrieving your card, cancellation is the best route. In that case, the rep will help you order a replacement card. Some institutions will charge a fee. Your new card should arrive within a week, although you can request a rush order to shorten your wait time which usually comes with an additional fee. If you need more immediate access to your funds, you can go to a bank branch and get a temporary card.

If you’re provided a confirmation number during the call, record it somewhere safe. You can also ask the representative for their number and employee ID. This makes it easier to keep track of your claim.

4. Cancel Any Automatic Payments

Once your card is disabled, you’ll want to notify companies that charge your account for recurring payments, like utility or credit card bills. Since your card has been canceled, those payments won’t be able to go through without updated information. Let each company know your account has been closed. You’ll also want to provide another form of payment so you can avoid any fees or disputes.

5. Follow up With Your Bank

What to Do After You've Lost Your Debit Card

Now that you’ve straightened things out, it’s mostly a waiting game. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), your card issuer has 10 business days to investigate any fraudulent charges and then three extra days to report findings to you.

To make sure everything is on the right track, you should follow up with your bank. You can call again or even send a written follow-up that summarizes your claim. Repeat the information you provided previously. This is where a confirmation or employee number will come in handy. You should also include your account number, the date you reported the lost debit card and the current date. If you found fraudulent charges, this is the perfect time to document them formally. You can send the information in a letter, email or through your bank’s secure messaging service. If you do send it by mail, use a certified service and get a return receipt or delivery tracking number.

Your card issuer may request this written report during their investigation. If you haven’t sent one, you may not be credited for your losses. Again, keep a copy for your own records and all your claim information safely in one place.

6. Implement New Safety Measures

Before you get your replacement debit card, it can help to take certain steps to hopefully avoid this hassle in the future. Of course, we can’t guarantee you won’t lose your card again, but at least you can be more proactive. For starters, you can change your PIN number, even if you aren’t entirely sure your card was compromised. You can also maintain a closer watch on your transactions. This is made easier with online and mobile banking, so you can check anywhere and anytime. You can also set alerts for purchases made over a certain amount. That way, in case anything fishy happens, you can act quickly.

For the future, it can help to keep your bank’s customer service number handy so you never need to scramble. Store it with your account information in a safe but accessible place or simply add it to your phone contacts. It also helps to make sure your bank has your correct contact information to avoid complications in case they need to contact you. Lastly, if you found yourself stranded at the register without a way to make your purchase, you might want to consider getting some backup plastic. If you can’t qualify for the credit card you want, you can start out with a secured credit card to build your credit and help yourself cover those awkward moments at the register.

How to Handle a Lost Debit Card

You shouldn’t panic when you lose your debit card, but it is important to act quickly. The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) states that you are not responsible for charges placed after you’ve notified your bank, but you could owe for charges made before you’ve report the incident. Your liability depends on the date and time you reported your card lost. At the end of the day, the faster you act, the safer you are.

If you report a lost debit card… You’re liable to pay up to…
Before any unauthorized charges are made $0
Within 2 business days that you find out about the loss or theft $50
More than 2 business days after you found out about the loss or theft but less than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you $500
More than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you All the money in your account

The same protections are usually extended to prepaid debit card holders, but there may be some stipulations. Check the fine print on your card agreement or ask a customer service representative to confirm your rights.

Cheapest Banks to Replace Debit Cards

What to Do After You've Lost Your Debit Card

As we mentioned above, institutions often charge a fee to issue a replacement card. Maybe you find yourself losing your debit card regularly or just want to find a checking account without hefty replacement fees as a precaution. Most big banks don’t charge for a simple replacement, but they will charge an additional $5 – $25 for rush delivery. Bank of America charges $5 for standard replacement and $15 for overnight business day delivery. EverBank also charges $5 for debit card replacement.

These costs make PNC Bank‘s $7.50 replacement fee and $25 expedited delivery fee seem pricey. However, PNC offers instant card replacement if you can go to a branch in person. TD Bank, which offers free replacement, can also print replacement cards instantly at select branches. Chase had a similar service, but recently ended the program due to an uptick in fraud.

The Takeaway

Unfortunately, most of us are prone to losing our debit card at one point or another. Whatever card issuer you have, it’s important to make sure you take security measures to keep your account safe. In the case that you do lose your card, do your best to act quickly by calling your bank and any other relevant companies. That way, you can avoid losing money and go back to normal sooner rather than later.

Tips on Using Your Debit Card

  • Losing your debit card is only one problem you can run into when you have a checking account. You can also run the risk of overdrafting your account if you tend to cut it close with your balance and expenses. In that case, you should consider overdraft protection. This may come at an extra cost, but it’s better than owing even more money. You also often have the option of linking a savings account to your checking account to help cover overdrafts.
  • Although debit cards are a safe route when it comes to spending money, you’re going to need to spend on credit at some point. When you’re ready, introduce a credit card into your wallet and spending tool rotation. This can help you cover some bigger purchases and build credit.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/djedzura, ©iStock.com/chonlachai, ©iStock.com/

Liz Smith Liz Smith is a graduate of New York University and has been passionate about helping people make better financial decisions since her college days. Liz has been writing for SmartAsset for more than four years. Her areas of expertise include retirement, credit cards and savings. She also focuses on all money issues for millennials. Liz's articles have been featured across the web, including on AOL Finance, Business Insider and WNBC. The biggest personal finance mistake she sees people making: not contributing to retirement early in their careers.
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