Is Your Credit Card Missing? Act Quickly!
After an Indiana man lost his credit card, it took less than an hour for unauthorized transactions to start popping up on his account [*]. First, the card was used at a nearby Walmart, and then at stores in towns a few hours away, before the victim finally shut it down.
Your finances are at risk the moment your credit card is missing, lost, or stolen.
Scammers can use a lost credit card to make fraudulent purchases. But they can also use the information on your card to scam your lender or bank into giving them access to your funds or even opening new accounts in your name.
If you think (or know) that someone else has access to your credit card, you need to act quickly. Here are 10 steps that you should take as soon as your credit card goes missing.
How Dangerous Is a Lost Credit Card?
When your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, any debit and credit cards that were inside are now compromised. But lost credit cards are especially dangerous.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were almost 400,000 reported cases of credit card misuse in 2021 alone, with victims losing nearly $150 million [*].
If your credit card is lost or stolen, you could face several consequences, including:
- Being liable for unauthorized purchases someone else makes.
- Dealing with a negative impact on your credit score that you’ll have to dispute.
- Having debts run up in your name by someone else.
- Scammers opening new bank or credit card accounts in your name.
- Becoming the victim of additional identity theft crimes.
While the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) offers protection against liabilities for the unauthorized use of your credit card, this isn’t always a given. In some cases — such as if you wait too long to report the card missing — your financial institution may deny your claim.
In every situation, the best thing you can do is act quickly as soon as you realize your card is missing.
What To Do If You Lost Your Credit Card
- Lock your card
- Freeze your credit
- Try to track down your lost card
- Report the missing card
- Follow up in writing to create a paper trail
- Check your billing statements
- File a police report
- Request a replacement card
- Review all recurring payments
- Sign up for a credit monitoring service
Here’s what to do as soon as you realize you can’t find your credit card:
1. Lock your card using your mobile banking app
If you can’t find your credit card, the first thing you should do is lock your card to prevent someone else from using it. This step can be done remotely by using your mobile banking app (or through your online banking account).
All of the major credit companies — like Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express — will send you a replacement in the mail for your old card.
What to do:
- Log in to your credit card issuer’s mobile app or website.
- Look for an option to lock your card remotely. This is usually found by locating a feature called “manage my card.”
- Follow your issuer’s steps, which typically only take a few clicks to complete.
- You can then unlock your card remotely from the app or website if you find it.
Did you know? You can also lock your credit card if someone steals your phone or gains access to your online accounts. This will stop them from using your mobile wallet or saved credit card information.
2. Freeze your credit as soon as possible
If you’re concerned that more of your personal finance information has been compromised, you should freeze your credit with all three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
A credit freeze stops fraudsters from opening new accounts or taking out loans in your name. However, it won’t stop them from using your current credit accounts. A credit freeze is free. And you can lift the freeze once the issue is resolved.
What to do:
- You’ll need to contact all three of the major credit bureaus to individually freeze your credit for each one. Here’s how to request a credit freeze with each bureau: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
💡 Related: Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze: Which One Do You Need? →
3. Try to track down your lost card
If you know your card was stolen, skip this step. Otherwise, try to find your card before canceling it and ordering a new credit card.
While finding a lost credit card is the best-case scenario, don’t hold off taking the next steps for too long. Even if you lock your card from your mobile app, scammers can use the information contained on your card to run other schemes.
What to do:
- Think back to the last place you used your credit card, and check there. For example, look through jackets or other clothing you’ve worn recently, different purses, briefcases, bags, and inside your vehicle.
- Review your credit card statement for any clues. Look at the last place you used the card for a purchase, and call that business to see if they have it.
4. Report the missing card to your issuer or bank
If you can’t find your card after locking it, contact your issuer or bank to report your lost or stolen card. Remember not to wait too long — if you take longer than 60 days to report the card as missing, you could be liable for any unauthorized charges made on it.
What to do:
- Call your credit card issuer or bank that issued the card and ask to talk to the fraud department. Explain that your card was lost or stolen, and request that they cancel the card.
- They may ask for information to verify your identity, such as your account number, previous charges, and parts of your Social Security number (SSN).
- Ask for the full name of the person you’re talking to, and write down the time and date that you called. Keep this for your records in case there are any questions or problems.
5. Follow up in writing to create a paper trail of the lost card
After canceling your card by phone, you’ll want to send your credit card issuer a letter or email documenting the call to create a paper trail — especially if your card was stolen or you never found it.
This step can provide additional proof that you took appropriate actions to avoid unauthorized charges.
What to do:
Include the following information in your letter or email:
- The date and approximate time when you realized your card was missing.
- The last authorized charge, including the date and location.
- When you reported the loss to them by phone, including the date and time of the call and to whom you spoke.
Keep a copy of the letter or email for your records, including the date and time when you sent it.
💡 Related: Is Discover Identity Theft Protection Worth It? Pros, Cons & Alternatives →
6. Check your billing statements for unrecognized charges
Check your credit card statement thoroughly for any unauthorized charges, even after you’ve frozen your account. There may be pending charges that didn’t show up when you first spoke to your credit card company.
You can also request free credit reports from all three credit bureaus by using AnnualCreditReport.com. Check your credit report for unauthorized transactions, hard inquiries you don’t recognize, or wrong information.
What to do:
- Log in to your online bank account or mobile app and check your credit card statements for charges that you don’t recognize. Don’t ignore small charges either, as scammers often start small to “verify” that your card works before moving on to larger purchases.
- Contact your credit card issuer immediately if you notice anything suspicious. Acting quickly can help prevent you from being held responsible for the charges.
💡 Related: How To Remove Hard Inquiries From Your Credit Report →
7. File a police report
If you know your card was stolen, you’ll also want to file a police report. You’ll definitely want to take this step if your driver’s license or ID card was also stolen, since losing both of those items together increases your chance of becoming a victim of identity theft.
What to do:
- Call your local police department, or go into the station to file a report.
- You’ll want to provide them with details of the theft, including when and where it took place and what additional items were taken.
8. Request a replacement card
You’ll likely need a new replacement card for your lost or stolen one once you know you will not be getting it back. This replacement card will have a new number and won’t be connected to the old one.
What to do:
- Contact your credit card issuer to get a replacement card — you may have done this step if you’ve already called and canceled your original card.
9. Contact any company where you have recurring payments set up
Now, make arrangements to cancel or transfer all automatic and recurring charges assigned to that card to a new card as soon as possible. This step will help you avoid late fees or missing payment fees.
What to do:
- Make a list of all automatic charges for your previous credit card, including monthly, quarterly, and annual payments.
- Contact each merchant to request that the old number is deleted, and provide the new number. You also may be able to change the credit card account on the merchant’s website or app.
- If the automatic payment arrives before you get a new card, contact the merchant to explain the situation and make other arrangements for payment.
10. Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service
Losing a credit card or having it stolen increases your risk of identity theft because your personal data is now potentially accessible by other people.
If you’ve lost your credit card, you should seriously consider signing up for an all-in-one identity theft protection solution like Aura.
With Aura, you get:
- Three-bureau credit monitoring with fraud alerts 4x faster than competitors. Aura actively monitors your credit report at all three bureaus and will alert you in near real-time of any suspicious activity.
- #1-rated identity theft protection and monitoring. Aura also monitors your most sensitive information — including your SSN, contact details, and bank accounts — to make sure they aren’t being used by scammers.
- 24/7 access to U.S.-based Fraud Resolution Specialists. If you need help, you can call or email Aura’s customer support any time of day or night.
- $1,000,000 in insurance for eligible losses due to identity theft. Should the worst happen, you’re covered for eligible losses, such as stolen funds, lawyer fees, and expenses.
- Digital security tools to protect you against hackers. Every Aura account comes with powerful antivirus software, a secure password manager, a virtual private network (VPN), phishing protection, and more proactive tools to keep you and your family safe online.
📌 Want to try Aura for yourself, risk free? Start your free 14-day trial of Aura today →
Are You Liable for Charges That Someone Else Makes on Your Card?
Federal law provides you with some protections for situations in which your card is lost or stolen. Specifically, you can’t be held responsible for any credit card charges that you didn’t authorize — in most cases.
For example, you won’t be accountable for any charges made if you report your missing card before someone else uses it and within 60 days of it going missing. And, if you report the card missing within two business days of realizing it’s gone, you typically can only be held responsible for up to $50 if someone used it before you reported it lost.
Additionally, most major credit card companies have a zero liability policy that won’t hold you accountable for fraudulent charges as long as you report the lost or stolen card.
The key is not to wait too long — as reporting the missing or stolen card will minimize your risk and responsibility for fraudulent charges.
Will a lost credit card hurt your credit score?
The process of reporting a lost credit card and getting a replacement should not negatively impact your credit score.
In this situation, most credit card companies transfer your information to the new card instead of formally closing your account.
So while you are issued a new number, your information (such as when you first opened an account with the issuer) is merged with the new number. As a result, this process doesn’t impact your credit score since you’re not closing and opening an account.
However, you always want to be sure you report a lost card to avoid being held responsible for any fraudulent charges or missed payments.
The Bottom Line: Protect Yourself From Credit Card Fraud
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from credit card fraud is immediately report a lost or stolen card to your credit card company. This will lock your card, and prevent anyone from purchasing items in your name.
But better than dealing with a lost credit card is keeping your finances secure in the first place.
Here are some strategies to reduce your risk of credit card fraud:
- Keep your cards physically in your possession at all times.
- Don’t carry too many cards.
- Download your credit card issuer’s app so you can quickly lock a card if it goes missing.
- Destroy old credit cards and any documents containing your credit card numbers.
- Monitor your credit for signs of identity theft or fraud.
- Secure your online banking account with strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA).
- Be cautious about whom you share your credit card numbers with. In addition to lost or stolen credit cards, here are 14 additional ways that scammers can get your credit card number while the card is still in your possession.
- Always check your credit card statements for charges you don’t recognize (even small ones).
- Be aware of phishing or other online scams that attempt to trick you into providing your credit card numbers or other personal data.
And for added security — and peace of mind — let Aura take care of securing your credit, finances, and identity.