Help! I Lost My Debit Card

A lost debit card probably means one of two things: You misplaced it, or someone stole it. Either way, don’t let panic set in.

Taking the necessary steps can limit any immediate damage and protect you from further risk.

1. Report the loss or theft

Report the loss to your bank or credit union as soon as you realize the card is missing. Cancel the debit card and make sure that a new one is sent your way.

2. Report bogus charges

Check your recent payment history for transactions you didn’t make. Jot down the details of any fraudulent charges, including the amount, merchant, location and processing date. Pass that information along to your financial institution, including the date and time you reported that your card was gone.

3. Follow up

After calling your bank or credit union, you may want to follow up by email or letter, repeating the information you’ve already provided. This serves as your written confirmation of the report, which the card issuer may request if it conducts an investigation. If you don’t have it, you may not be credited for any losses. You can use any secure messaging service that the bank offers, including online or mobile apps.

» MORE: You don’t have to pay for credit card fraud

Next steps

Your card issuer typically has 10 business days to investigate and an additional three to report its findings to you, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If the investigation takes longer, the bank or credit union must temporarily credit your account for the disputed amount, minus a charge of up to $50. From there, the bank may have as many as 90 days to resolve the issue, depending on the nature of the transactions.

Who owes what in case of debit card theft

Debit cards don’t have the strong fraud protections you get with credit cards. Still, federal law limits liability for a stolen or lost bank debit card, but only if you act quickly. The amount of money for which you’re on the hook is determined by how quickly you report the card as missing:

  • If you contact your financial institution within two business days of the discovery and fraudulent charges have already been made, the most you’ll be responsible for is $50
  • Wait longer, and your liability increases to $500
  • If you don’t inform your card issuer for more than 60 days after receiving your next statement, you’ll be on the hook for all unauthorized charges

Many major prepaid debit card issuers offer similar protections, according to the CFPB, but there may be some variation. Check the fine print to see what kinds of protections you get for each of your cards.

How to reduce your risk going forward

Taking a few precautions can reduce your risk of future debit card losses:

  • Keep your bank’s information accessible. You won’t have the customer service number that’s printed on the back of your card when the card is lost or stolen. Write that number down, along with your account information, and put it somewhere safe but accessible.
  • Monitor transactions. Keep an eye on your checking account on a daily basis and take action if you come across any suspicious transactions.

By following these steps, you can ensure that a missing debit card doesn’t lead to a financial catastrophe.

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd. NerdWallet’s John Gower contributed to this article.

Updated June 21, 2017

The article Help! I Lost My Debit Card originally appeared on NerdWallet.