What Happens If You Lose Your Debit Card?

The sooner you act after losing your debit card the smaller your potential liability.

The sooner you act after losing your debit card the smaller your potential liability.

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by Contributing Writer

Everyone's misplaced or lost something important over the years; it's just part of life. Having a debit card go missing doesn't have to be disastrous, because it can be easily replaced, but you do need to act quickly when you realize it's lost so you can limit your potential liability. Keep the financial institution's phone number handy so that you can call quickly after realizing your card is lost.

Contact Financial Institution

As soon as you know your debit card is lost or stolen, contact your financial institution and let them know to cancel the card. That way, should your card get picked up by an unscrupulous individual, it won't work if the thief tries to use it. Plus, if you use the card regularly, you'll need a new one as soon as possible. Calling your financial institution immediately will get your new card on its way fast, and can also cut down on any liability for unauthorized charges.

Potential Liability

Your liability for unauthorized charges depends on how quickly you act to inform your financial institution. As soon as you let it know, you're off the hook for any later charges. If you call before any charges are made, you've cut off all liability. If you call within two business days of learning your card is lost, your liability is capped at $50, even if more was charged. If you dilly dally around and don't contact the financial institution until more than two days after, but you do tell them sooner than 60 days after receiving the statement with the unauthorized charges, your potential liability jumps to $500. If it takes you longer, you're stuck footing the bill for all the unauthorized charges.

Stolen Numbers

Potentially scarier than losing your debt card is having your debt card number stolen out from under your nose without you knowing it. It's vital that you check your monthly statements to make sure there aren't any unauthorized transactions. If just your number is stolen, your liability is zero as long as you report the transaction within 60 days of receiving the statement with the unauthorized charges on it. After the 60 days are up, your money's gone for good.

Protection Tips

Debit cards require a PIN number to use, so both the Federal Trade Commission and various banks recommend memorizing your PIN and not writing it down. Don't use a PIN that would appear elsewhere in your wallet, such as a birthday or phone number. For example, if you were born on October 12, 1975, don't use "1012" or "1975" as your PIN.

About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images