Lost debit card: 5 things to do next

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In a Nutshell

If your debit card has been lost or stolen, there are a few simple steps you can take to cancel your card and get a replacement. That way, it can’t be used without your permission, and you could limit your financial responsibility should your card fall into the wrong hands.
Jennifer Brozic is a personal finance writer and has written for Citi. Editorial Note: Intuit Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Information about financial products not offered on Credit Karma is collected independently. Our content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

Losing your debit card can be alarming — a thief may be able to use your card to access the money in your bank account.

But there’s good news: There are things you can do to deactivate your lost debit card so it can’t be used without your permission. To limit your financial responsibility, you need to act quickly in reporting to your bank if your card is lost, stolen, or used to make unauthorized purchases.

Here’s what to do if your card is lost or stolen.

  1. Review your account history
  2. Report the lost debit card
  3. Cancel automatic payments
  4. Follow up with your bank in writing
  5. Figure out your financial responsibility

1. Review your account history

It’s always a good idea to monitor your accounts for suspicious activity, but if suspect your debit card is lost or stolen, this habit can be especially helpful in keeping your account safe. If you have access to your account online, it’s good practice to regularly pull up your account history and review every transaction to make sure it’s legitimate. If you get paper statements, review them carefully for withdrawals you didn’t make.

If you find unauthorized transactions, make a note of them so you can report them to your bank or credit union when reporting your card lost or stolen. Make sure you have enough money in your account to pay for upcoming bills. Otherwise, you may be charged an overdraft fee.

2. Report the lost debit card

After checking your account history, report the loss or theft of your card to your bank or credit union. If you noticed unauthorized activity, let your bank know. Provide the transaction date and amount that was deducted from your account.

Your financial institution generally has 10 business days to investigate fraudulent charges on your account. If the investigation finds errors in your account history, your bank or credit union has one business day to correct them. When the investigation is complete, your bank must report its findings to you within three business days.

If it’ll take more than 10 business days to complete the investigation, your bank or credit union generally must issue a temporary credit for the unauthorized transactions while the investigation continues.

Most of the time, your financial institution will cancel the lost debit card and issue a replacement card, which will be mailed to you. But if you think you’ve misplaced your card and expect it to turn up within a few days, you may be able to temporarily freeze your lost card, so it can easily be reactivated if you find it.

3. Cancel automatic payments

Cancel any automatic payments you have set up through your debit card — the payment won’t go through if you’ve deactivated the card. Contact each creditor to set up an alternate payment method while you wait for your new card in the mail, so your payments aren’t late — which could negatively impact your credit.

4. Follow up in writing

After your initial contact with your bank or credit union, send a letter in writing summarizing the details of your communication with it. Include your account number, when you noticed the missing debit card and when you first reported it lost or stolen.

Consider sending your letter via certified mail and requesting a return receipt. If there’s a dispute with your financial institution, you’ll have a record of what you reported, when you reported it and confirmation that it received your letter.

5. Figure out your financial responsibility

Although debit cards don’t offer the same liability protection as credit cards, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act limits your financial responsibility if your debit card is lost or stolen. Your liability depends on how quickly you report the loss to your bank or credit union.

If you report a lost debit card …Your potential liability is …
Before it’s used without your permission$0
Within two business days of discovering your card is missing$50
More than two business after discovering your card is missing, but less than 60 calendar days after your account statement is sent to you$500
More than 60 days after your account statement is sent to youAll the money that was withdrawn from your account and possibly money that was taken from linked accounts

If you’re liable for unauthorized charges made with your debit card, check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to see if it covers part or all of your financial responsibility.

What’s next?

Since there’s no guarantee that your debit card won’t be lost or stolen again, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself. First, change your personal identification number. If someone comes across your new card, they won’t be able to access your account using your old PIN.

Then set up email or text alerts for debit card transactions, so you’ll know right away if someone is using your card without your permission. And don’t forget to monitor your statements regularly for suspicious activity, so you can report it as soon as possible.

About the author: Jennifer Brozic is a freelance financial services writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in communication management from Towson University. She’s committed… Read more.