If you think you only misplaced your credit card, you might want to just temporarily lock your credit card account while you retrace your steps. If you suspect it’s stolen, however, you should call the credit card company and cancel the lost card immediately to minimize any fraudulent charges. Fortunately, you’re rarely liable for any charges made on a lost or stolen card and it won’t affect your credit report.
It’ll probably happen at least once in your life. Your credit card will be lost or stolen — or worse, your wallet or purse will go missing. It can be alarming, especially in an age where stolen credit cards and identity theft are abundant. But there are quick steps you can take to mitigate any possible risks.
Read on to learn about what to do about a lost or stolen credit card, the steps you need to take as soon as you realize it’s missing, and other advice about how to protect your identity and minimize the hazards that go along with a missing credit card.
What to do when you lose your credit card
The first thing to do when you notice your card is missing is not to panic. You may have just misplaced it, left it on a sales counter, or it slipped out of your wallet and is lurking at the bottom of your bag. Or it may have been stolen. Either way, your actions should be similar.
1. Lock your card and retrace your steps
These days, most credit card companies or financial institutions have mobile apps or online banking where you can quickly go and temporarily lock your card — put it on hold, essentially. This way you can avoid canceling your credit card entirely.
Locking the credit card account means no one can make unauthorized purchases while you look for your lost card. If you’re out shopping, for example, and remember where you last used it, check there and keep your card locked until you find it. (It doesn’t hurt to also thoroughly check your wallet, pockets, and bag to make sure you didn’t accidentally put your credit card in a different spot.)
2. Call or message the credit card issuer immediately
If those options don’t pan out and/or you’re not sure how to lock your card, call your credit card company immediately. This way you can report the missing card, cancel the old one, and request a replacement credit card.
You can also send a message through the credit card issuer’s app to report lost cards and ask for a replacement card. Your identity should already be verified through the mobile app, but if you call customer service, be prepared to verify your identity. Credit card issuers will typically want to know your name, billing address, and Social Security number. You may also need to answer other security questions.
Once you’ve canceled the account and ordered a replacement card, be aware that it could take (on average) five to seven business days to receive a new credit card. The new card will have a new card number and security code.
The credit card company needs to issue a new card number so that if someone finds your missing card, they won’t be able to make unauthorized charges to your account. If you do find your old card, you should still cut it up even though it’s been deactivated.
3. Check for unauthorized charges on the lost credit card
When you call the credit card issuer to report your card is missing, they’ll likely review your recent transactions to verify that you made them or to determine whether they’re fraudulent charges.
If there are any unauthorized transactions, in most cases credit card issuers will not hold you responsible for any of it. At worst, the Fair Credit Billing Act states that you are only liable for $50.
Even if you don’t identify any fraudulent purchases right away, you should still keep an eye on your credit card statement, advises Rachana Bhatt, Executive Vice President of PNC Bank.
“In addition to notifying your card issuer, customers should closely examine your credit card statements for unusual activity. If you see unauthorized charges on your statements, immediately notify your card issuer if you haven’t already done so,” says Bhatt.
4. Update recurring payments
Once you get your replacement card, you’ll want to check to see if you use that card for any automatic payments or recurring charges. This way you can update those accounts with your new card number, says Bhatt.
“When your new credit card is issued, it is important to update your card information (new number, CVV (security code) and expiration date) with merchants you’ve established recurring payments, so that those payments continue to be processed.
“If you’ve established automatic payments to your credit card account from your deposit account, you’ll want to make sure you update the credit card account information so that your payments are applied correctly and timely.”
If you’re not sure what accounts use your card number, check your old credit card statements or log on to your online account to make sure you’re not missing anything. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for late fees. For instance, if your utilities are set up for automatic payments, you could incur late charges if your old card number is deactivated.
You should also be sure to update your mobile wallet if your lost credit card was stored there. You can also use your mobile wallet to avoid carrying a credit card in the first place, but keep in mind not every merchant accepts mobile payments.
5. Consider freezing or putting a fraud alert on your credit reports
If you only have a lost credit card or even a stolen card, you probably don’t have to worry about identity theft. However, in some cases, you may want to freeze your reports or at least put a fraud alert in place.
For example, if your entire wallet or purse was stolen, some extra security measures might be in order. Having access to one lost credit card may not give an identity thief much to go on, but your wallet probably holds a lot more of your personal and financial data, including your driver’s license. There could be enough information for identity theft to become a real threat.
A fraud alert notifies creditors to take extra care when verifying your identity before issuing new credit and usually is active for one year. If you filed a report with the local police department, though, or reported fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) you can keep a fraud alert in place for seven years.
A credit freeze is a more drastic measure as it basically locks your credit file. This prevents lenders from accessing your credit history until you “unfreeze” it. While this can be a little more of a hassle for consumers, a freeze can bring you peace of mind if you’re concerned about being a victim of identity theft.
Does a lost credit card hurt your credit score?
Naturally, you might wonder if someone using your credit card will affect your credit report, but a lost credit card (or stolen one) won’t have any impact on your credit score. This is because you’re not at fault for the unauthorized charges. However, it’s still a good idea to take a look at your credit reports regularly to look for any suspicious activity.
Using the previous example, if someone stole your wallet, they might be able to collect enough of your personal and financial information to open up a new card account without you being aware of it. If that happens, it will hurt your credit score because presumably the person committing the credit card fraud in your name also won’t pay the bills.
But don’t worry. You can report the unauthorized account and get it removed from your credit history, which will restore your good credit. Again, this might also be a good time to put a fraud alert or credit freeze on your reports to help make sure this doesn’t happen again.
If you’ve found unauthorized charges on your credit report, you may want to hire a credit repair company to help.
How to avoid stolen credit cards and identity theft
Though we all hope it never happens to us, make sure you plan ahead and take steps to reduce your risk of having a card lost or stolen or, worse, having your identity taken.
- Protect your information. Never carry your Social Security card, banking details, or other important information on you. Always keep them in a safe location at home or stored securely on your computer.
- Be vigilant. Read your credit card statement every month to look for unauthorized transactions. It’s important to remember that your credit card number can be stolen and used to make fraudulent charges even if you still have the physical card.
- Travel light. Carry only the cards you need and leave the rest at home.
- Set up alerts. Most financial institutions give you the option to request alerts on your debit and credit card accounts. This way you’ll be notified every time a transaction is made, so you can immediately report any unauthorized charges without waiting until your billing statements are delivered.
- Be prepared. Consider storing any credit card company numbers in your contacts in case your card is lost or stolen. This way you’ll always have a number to call even when you can’t refer to the back of the card.
- Be aware of common credit card scams. Many scammers target consumers by calling and saying they’re from a legitimate company or service provider and that you owe them money. They’ll suggest you pay over the phone so as not to disrupt your electricity/cable/internet, etc. Don’t fall for it. Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you made the call. If you’re concerned, hang up and call the real company.
- Enlist some help. Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service or an identity theft protection company.
- If you think your credit card is lost or stolen, lock your card or call your credit card issuer to immediately report the lost card.
- Once you’ve reported the lost credit card, your credit card issuer should send you a replacement card within a week with a new card number and CVV code.
- Be sure to update your payment information for any recurring payments you have set up to avoid any late charges or disruptions in service.
- If your credit card was stolen or you suspect identity theft, you may want to file a police report and set up an alert or freeze on your credit report to help avoid fraudulent activity in the future.
View Article Sources
- Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards — Federal Trade Commission
- Home Page — Federal Trade Commission
- How To Find Out If Someone Opened a Credit Card In My Name — SuperMoney
- Lost or Stolen Wallet? 6 Things You Need To Do Immediately — SuperMoney
- How To Cancel A Credit Card The Right Way — SuperMoney
- Why You Were Denied a Credit Card And What You Can Do About It — SuperMoney
- Can You Reopen a Closed Credit Card? — SuperMoney
- How To Freeze Your Credit — SuperMoney
- Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes: Options Against Identity Fraud — SuperMoney
- Credit Card Dumps: What They Are and 5 Ways to Protect Yourself — SuperMoney
- 4 Things to Do after Your Credit Card Is Hacked For Protection — SuperMoney
- Best Credit Repair Companies — SuperMoney