What to Do When You Lose Your Debit Card: How to Limit Your Loss

You’re standing at the counter in your local coffee shop, ready to buy a large cappuccino, but you can’t seem to find your debit card. Your stomach drops as you realize your card is not in your wallet. Where did you leave it? Was it stolen? How long has it been gone? This common scenario shows why you need to know what to do when you lose your debit card.  

While debit cards have made shopping faster and easier, they come with certain risks and responsibilities. It is estimated that by 2023, debit and credit card purchases will top $10 billion per year. A 2019 Nilson report revealed that 208.7 million Americans (82%) had a debit card. By 2023 more than 84% will likely carry a card that is directly linked to a bank account.   

The most important thing to remember if you lose your debit card is you must act quickly. 

Here’s What to Do When You Lose Your Debit Card 

Time is of the essence. Follow this list of what to do if you lose a debit card to protect your account, your credit history, your credit score, and your peace of mind: 

  1. Notify the card issuer immediately. This is usually your bank. Look for a contact number on the webpage where you check your account balance. If you can’t find an emergency number there, search for the company online, but be wary of fraudulent websites set up by scammers to take advantage of confused consumers. Look for a secure site, a legitimate URL, and no obvious errors on the site.  
  2. Tell the card issuer that you have lost your card (or it was stolen) and you need to place a fraud alert on the debit card. Provide your name, address, and when you last had the card in your possession. If you know the card was stolen, ask to cancel the card and have a new card issued. If you think you lost it and may find it soon, you can ask for a freeze on your account for a few days to try to find it.  
  3. While you are online, review your account statement and look for any unauthorized debit card activity. Tell the card issuer about every unusual transaction during your initial call. Keep a written record of the date you realized your card was missing, your account balance, the person you spoke with, the time of day, and what information you shared.  
  4. Follow up in writing with your bank or the card issuer to report the lost debit card. Include all important details including:  
    • Your name,  
    • Your account number,  
    • The dates of any disputed transactions,  
    • The amounts of unauthorized transactions,  
    • When you first noticed the card was missing, and  
    • When you first reported the missing card by phone or online.  
    • Send this information by certified mail and request proof of receipt. Keep a copy of every communication.  
  5. Cancel any automatic payments or withdrawals such as utilities, rent, monthly subscriptions, and other regular expenses attached to your debit card account. Notify these creditors that your debit card was lost and create a different way to make these payments until your account is resolved. Don’t miss these payments or allow them to bounce because your credit rating will be negatively impacted. 
  6. Request your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies and carefully review them for unauthorized activity. Report any problems or errors to the credit reporting agency and tell them your debit card was compromised. Ask the agencies to remove any unauthorized transactions from your report. Keep a record of your communications, the dates, the person you spoke to, what was discussed, and what action should be taken.  
  7. Cancel overdraft protection on the account linked to your debit card when you place your fraud report. Overdraft protection could allow a thief to access more money than your account balance.  

If the bank or credit reporting agencies give you any trouble, consider contacting a credit reporting lawyer for a free consultation.  

Why You Need to Report Suspicious Debit Card Activity Quickly  

Now that you know what to do when you lose your debit card, you can act quickly and reduce your losses. For information about other cards, the Federal Trade Commission offers tips about what to do if you lose a debit card, credit card, or ATM card.  

The sooner you notify your bank about your missing card, the more likely you can avoid: 

  • The loss of your entire account balance, 
  • Bounced checks, 
  • Missed automatic payments,  
  • Overdraft charges, 
  • Late fees, 
  • Minimum balance fees,  
  • Additional financial obligations with overdraft protection, 
  • Damage to your credit history and credit score, and 
  • The time and emotional stress required to clear up your account and financial reputation. 

Since a debit card allows electronic fund transfers from your account, the federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) can limit your potential losses. Your maximum liability depends on how quickly you act when you realize your debit card is missing. In general, the longer you wait to report stolen money, the more it will cost you 

In many situations, if you report your lost debit card within two business days, your maximum potential loss is $50If you miss the two-business day timeframe, you can still limit your potential losses to $500 if you notify the card issuer within 60 days of the date your regular account statement was issued. If you don’t give notification within 60 days of your statement date, you could face extensive losses.  

The EFTA is complicated, and your rights may vary from those described here. If you are dealing with unauthorized debit card charges that the bank refuses to credit back to you, contact one of the consumer protection attorneys at The Financial Justice Initiative to discuss your specific circumstances.  

How to Prevent Debit Card Fraud in the Future 

If you want to use a debit card, keep your PIN secure. Don’t use the same PIN for multiple cards or accounts. Remember to change your PIN often, and never write it down on your debit card or anywhere in your wallet. Keep a record of your accounts, account numbers, card expiration dates, and the card issuers’ phone numbers in a safe place.  

It is also very important to monitor your credit reports regularly to catch unauthorized transactions quickly. Create text or email alerts to track your debit card and catch unusual activity as soon as possible. After you have lost a debit card, you may need to review your credit reports for months or years to ensure no further activity is recorded against your credit history. 

Knowing What to Do When You Lose Your Debit Card May Save Money, Time, and Frustration 

Losing your debit card is not only irritating, but it can also be financially and personally devastating. When you realize your card is missing, you must act quickly. Trust the nationwide team of Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyers at The Financial Justice Initiative to help protect your rights and guide you through the process of recovering your money and clearing your credit reports. 

For a free case consultation and helpful advice about what to do when you lose your debit card or other fair credit reporting issues, call us today at (855) 929-1051 or fill out this simple online form