Updated October 3, 2019

Lost Credit Card

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Losing your credit card can sting - but it doesn't have to hurt you financially. Here's what to do if your credit card is lost or stolen.

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Accidents - and thefts - can't always be prevented. But you can take steps to protect yourself when they happen. Read our guide to see what steps you need to take.

Am I liable for charges made with my lost or stolen card?

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you aren't be responsible for fraudulent charges made AFTER you report the credit card missing.

But don't panic if your card has unauthorized charges. The maximum amount of liability you could face is $50.

And most credit card issuers offer zero liability policies for fraudulent charges. If you're faced with paying unauthorized charges, you can contest them with your credit card company.

Missing Card Action Plan

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Many credit cards protect you from charges made on a lost or stolen card. But it's important to act fast. Here's how.

  1. Report the lost/stolen card to your credit card issuer
    Call either the credit card issuer or payment processor as soon as you realize the card is missing. You can find the correct telephone number on your statement or via your online account.

    Depending on your credit card issuer, you may also be able to notify them online.

    Here are the phone numbers and websites for reporting a lost or stolen credit card to the major credit card companies.

    Credit Card IssuersPhone Number
    Bank of America1 800-732-9194
    Barclays1-866-928-8598
    BMO HarrisContact number varies: check website
    Capital OneDomestic: 1-800-427-9428
    1-800-239-7054
    International: 1-804-934-2001
    Chase1-800-432-3117
    Citibank1-800-950-5114
    PNCDomestic: 1-800-533-6596
    International: 1-877-222-5402
    US Bank1-877-595-6256
    USAA1-800-945-6759
    Wells Fargo1-800-869-3557

    Payment ProcessorsPhone Number
    American Express1-800-528-4800
    Discover1-800-347-2683
    Mastercard1-800-627-8372
    Visa1-800-847-2911

    If possible, start with the credit card issuer, since they'll be replacing your card.

    You'll need to provide:

    • Your account number
    • The date you lost your card
    • The amount and date of your most recent purchase

    Your credit card company will immediately freeze the account to stop any fraudulent purchases and send you a new card. They'll also cancel your lost card. But your account will remain open, and a replacement card will be mailed to you.

    Report your card as soon as it's missing to avoid responsibility for fraudulent charges. After you've reported it lost or stolen, you're no longer legally liable for any charges made with your card.

  2. Write a follow-up letter to the credit card issuer
    Follow up on your call by sending a written statement to your credit card company. The statement will back up your lost/stolen claim in case the phone representative made any errors recording the conversation.

    In the letter, include the same information you provided over the phone: account number, the date you lost your card, and the amount and date of your most recent purchase.

    Here's a handy template for your letter:

    Your Name
    Your Address
    Your City, State, Zip Code

    Date

    Name of Credit Card Issuer
    Address of Credit Card Company
    Credit Card Company City, State, Zip Code

    Re: Your Account Number

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    My credit card was recently lost/stolen on [date card went missing]. I reported the missing card to your customer service team on [date of call]. I requested the card to be canceled and to receive a replacement card. This letter serves as written confirmation of my cancellation request and to confirm the canceled card should not be authorized for use under any circumstance.

    Please see below the relevant information regarding my missing card.

    Name on card:
    Account number:
    Date card went missing:
    Date of last purchase:
    Amount of last purchase:

    Thank you for your assistance. If you have any questions, please contact me at [your phone number] or [your email.]

    Regards,

    [Your Signature]
    [Your Name]

    Keep a copy of the letter for yourself. Since you're sending sensitive information, it's a good idea to send the letter via certified mail so you receive verification of receipt.

  3. Call a credit agency
    To protect your personal information, you should place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account. What's the difference?

    • Credit Freeze: Blocks any access to your credit history. No one, including you, can open new credit lines in your name. In most states, credit freezes last until removed.

    • Fraud Alert: Requires secondary verification when opening any new credit lines. Stops thieves from opening new accounts in your name. Last for 90 days unless extended.

    Both fraud alerts and credit freezes are free as of September 2018.

    A fraud alert is probably all you need with a lost or stolen credit card. Once your missing card is canceled, your account information should be safe.

    Call one of the three credit bureaus - TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian - to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account. All three are legally obligated to notify each other when fraud alerts and credit freezes are requested.

    When you call the agency, you'll be asked to provide:

    • Full name
    • Address
    • Telephone number
    • Social Security number

    They may also ask you to send photocopies of documents that verify your address and Social Security number.

    You can remove a fraud alert on your account at any time by re-contacting a credit agency.

    Credit Agencies Fraud Alert Lines:

    TransUnion: Call 1(800) 680-7289 or create an account online here
    Equifax: Call 1(800) 525-8285 or create an account online here
    Experian: Call 1(888) 397-3742 or visit the Credit Fraud Center online

  4. Monitor your account
    Even after your card has been canceled, you should monitor the credit card account for delayed fraudulent charges. Read on for the best ways to keep tabs on your account.

    • Review Statements: Fraudulent charges made with a missing or stolen card may take time to show up on your statements. If you notice any unauthorized purchases, alert your credit card company.

      You can spot unauthorized charges quickly by reviewing the business and amount associated with each charge. Give any unfamiliar names or figures a second look.

    • Sign Up for Alerts: Consider signing up for text alerts through your credit card account. You can modify the settings to receive a text or email every time you charge something to your credit card.

      Most major card issuers let you pick a minimum dollar amount that, when charged, triggers the alert.

    • Read Your Credit Score Report: Sign up to receive free regular credit score reports. Your credit score report will notify you of any unpaid debts, like outstanding credit card charges or bills.

      The following services will provide you a free credit score report when you sign up:

How a Missing Card Could Affect Your Credit Score

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In most cases, a lost or stolen credit card won't affect your credit score. If your credit score drops after your credit card goes missing, here are the likely reasons:

Re-Issued Card Reported as New Account
When you receive a replacement credit card, credit card issuers normally report it as belonging to an existing account.

Occasionally, a credit card issuer reports the replacement card as an entirely new account and closes the previous one. This incorrectly reduces the average length of your credit history.

If this happens to you, your credit score report will show a new account opened. To fix the mistake, call your credit card company and ask them to change how the account is reported to credit agencies. Your credit score should go back up.

Automatic Billing Mistakes
Once you receive your new credit card, update your automatic billing payments with the new card number. If you fail to do so, the canceled card will receive the charge, and the bill will go unpaid.

As unpaid bills pile up, your credit score will take a hit. To bring your score back up, pay the outstanding bills immediately. Continue to make all payments on time, and your score will eventually recover.

How to Prevent Losing Your Credit Card

Keep it in the same place in your wallet.
Know where your credit cards are at all times. For ease of access and mind, assign them to a specific slot in your wallet. That way, you'll always know where it is and notice immediately if it goes missing.

Carry only the cards needed.
Only carry the cards you frequently use in your wallet. That way, if your wallet goes missing, you won't have to cancel and replace several cards at once.

Store unused cards in a safe place.
This could be a fireproof lock box, a lockable desk drawer, or storage container you keep valuables. Just like your card in your wallet, always know where you store your credit cards. If your home was robbed, you would want to know immediately if any were stolen.

Remember to take the credit card back after paying.
In stores, restaurants, and bars, be sure to double-check you take your credit card before leaving. A good rule of thumb is to always put your card away before you sign any receipt or calculate the tip.

A few more tips to consider:

  • At Restaurants: Check the bill sleeve before you leave your table.

  • At Stores: Keep your wallet out until the cashier has handed back your credit card.

  • At Bars: Put your card away before you take a sip of your drink.

Close out your bar tab immediately.
Instead of opening a bar tab, buy one round of drinks and close out your tab each time. You'll lessen the risk of losing your card and avoid others taking advantage of your open tab.

How to Prevent Your Credit Card from Getting Stolen

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Cut Up Old Credit Cards
Destroy your card with scissors BEFORE tossing it. If someone were to steal the credit card out of the trash, they could make unauthorized purchases with it.

Replacement cards will typically have the same credit card number as an expired card with a different security code and expiration date. If someone were to steal your expired card, they might guess the expiration date and make a fraudulent charge.

Keep an Eye on your Purse/Wallet
Even in places like work, the gym, or the library, you shouldn't be lax about security. When navigating crowded public areas, avoid keeping your wallet in a backpack or large shoulder bag.

Pickpockets can easily open and close a backpack and slip a hand into a large bag without you noticing.

Do Not Leave Your Wallet/Purse in a Parked Car
When you park your card, take your wallet or purse with you. Thieves are more likely to break into cars with visible valuables.

Do Not Lend Your Card to Anyone
You'll have a lower risk of losing your card if you keep it within your possession, rather than lending it to a friend or family member. If you need someone to purchase something for you, offer to electronically send the money via a mobile payment app, like Square Cash, Zelle, or Venmo.

Don't Take a Cash Advance at an Unfamiliar ATM
Only use ATMs that you trust. A malfunctioning or tampered machine could take your credit card but not release it. If this happens and the ATM is associated with a bank, it's likely they will have technical support to help you quickly. With an unfamiliar ATM, getting your card back may be more difficult.

How to Keep Your Credit Card Safe While Traveling

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Tuck Your Wallet In a Safe Place for Airport Security
Secure your wallet before loading your belongings onto the airport security conveyor belt. That way, it won't fall out of your bag in the shuffle.

Don't Leave Cards in Hotel Rooms
You can ignore this rule if your room has a secure lock box or if you travel with a safe.

Write Important Information Down
If you travel abroad, write down your bank's international phone numbers in case you need to contact them.

Have a Companion Carry a Back-up
Ask your friend to carry either a back-up credit card or have a photo of your card on their phone. If your wallet and phone get stolen, you'll have the right information to cancel the card.

Keep the Credit Card in Sight During Transactions
Don't allow yourself to be distracted when making purchases. Keep your credit card in sight while paying for anything.

Beware of Stand-Alone or Tampered ATMs
Before using an ATM in a foreign country, look for signs of tampering. Find ATMs associated with major banks that leave part of your card sticking out. Avoid ATMs that take in your full card - they could give you problems getting it back.

The Bottom Line

Don't panic if your credit card gets lost or stolen. Most companies have quick procedures to deal with these situations.

Protect your assets and credit by acting as soon as you notice your card is missing. Once you get your replacement card, remember to update any automatic billing systems with the new card information. Losing your credit card shouldn't affect you if you know what to do.

More from CreditDonkey:


How to Prevent Credit Card Fraud


Credit Card Fraud Statistics


How to Use a Credit Card

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CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.