Taking the right steps after losing a credit card are essential to avoiding financial pitfalls.
It happens to the best of us. You hand your credit card over to the barista in a coffee shop only to turn and walk away once the transaction goes through.
Even if you returned a short while later to retrieve it, a lost credit card usually can't be used again once it goes missing.
If your card has been lost or stolen, here are the steps you should take to protect yourself financially.
Contact Your Credit Card Provider
One of the first things you need to do when you can't find your credit card, even if you just 'think' you lost it, is to contact your card provider. Most credit card providers post the number for lost or stolen cards on their websites. Call your credit car issuer right away, or if you're traveling without internet access, wait until you get back to your hotel to get help from the front desk.
Freeze Your Card
If you're sure your card is nearby in a safe place, such as your luggage or around your house in a pile of laundry, ask your credit card company to freeze the card. Freezing credit cards is like turning a switch off to limit new transactions.
Freezing won't permanently disable your card, which allows you to look for it without fearing unauthorized charges.
Some cards can be frozen online without talking to a customer services representative. Once your card is found, you can unfreeze the card through the same online process.
Lock Your Card
Locking a credit card is usually the recommended way to handle a lost card. There are a few scenarios when freezing your card isn't safe or convenient such as:
- You lose your credit card in a hotel room the same day you are checking out.
- Someone else finds and returns your credit card.
- You leave your card in a restaurant, or another public place, by accident.
- You have no idea where the card is.
- Your personal belongings, luggage, or wallet has been stolen.
These are just a few of the reasons to have your card permanently locked and request a new one. This method is inconvenient because it requires you to wait for a new card to come in the mail.
The standard turnaround time is 7 to 10 business days, but some providers, like American Express will rush card delivery for qualifying members.
Unlike banks, credit card companies don't have an option to offer you a temporary card, so you'll need to get immediate access to an alternative form of payment if the card gets lost while you are traveling abroad.
File a Police Report
If you're sure the credit card has been stolen, it's essential to file a police report to prepare for the possibility that you could become the victim of identity theft. Police reports provide important documentation that can help your case down the road.
It may seem like overkill, but getting the police on your side also helps them, especially when dealing with a repeat offender. Criminal impersonation is not often a one-time incident, which could mean you're assisting the police in apprehending someone before they hurt someone else.
After dealing with the lost credit card with your card issuer, check your transactions online for any suspicious activity. Thieves might not begin using the card right away, so it's important to monitor your account continuously for any potential fraud.
If you notice charges on your account that you didn't make, dispute these with your creditor. Most credit card companies have a 0 percent liability policy for fraud.
Reporting your card as lost or stolen as soon as possible helps to prove charges are fraudulent. Be sure to place a fraud alert on your account so that the creditor can monitor your account for unusual activity and fraudulent charges.
If anything out of the ordinary pops up, your credit card provider will call, text or email you to notify you of the change. This often means your card is temporarily frozen until you verify all new charges.
It's a major inconvenience to have your card frozen because it will decline even with authorized charges until you make contact with the fraud department.
Get a Copy of Your Credit Report
After you've reported your card as lost or stolen, you must also consider your credit. For one thing, canceling a credit card can sometimes be a cause for concern when it comes to your credit reporting. Most of the time, your replacement card comes with the same tradeline but with an updated credit card number.
In other cases, after you cancel the card, a lost credit card is replaced with a lower tradeline. This might happen if your credit score or overall credit usage is unusually high.
A lower tradeline can negatively impact your credit score when you have high credit utilization since utilization should remain below 30 percent. In an unlucky twist, your credit report might also show the card as being 'closed,' which requires a new credit inquiry.
New credit inquiries also lower your credit score and might show your account as closed. This will shorten the length of your credit history, which is an important factor in improving your credit score.
Your goal with the credit card issuer to best protect your credit is to receive a new card as a continuation of your old account with the same available tradeline. Request a free copy of your credit report to keep an eye on potential changes.
Contact your credit card provider if you see any major changes to see if there is a way to fix the issue without penalty to you.
Getting Rid of a Lost Credit Card
The best way to get rid of a lost credit card is to shred it once it's found. Never throw a credit card in the trash or keep it around your house after you've got a replacement.
No matter how far you are from home, taking action to report your lost or stolen credit card is the right move to help you gain control of the situation.