What to Do if Your Credit Card is Lost or Stolen

  • By Steven
  • Published: May 20, 2024
  • Last Updated: Jun 12, 2024


Credit and debit cards have become the most prominent form of wealth access in the last decade. Once consumers pulled out thick wallets of cash—they now pull out thin clips of cards—if they bother using a card, not a watch or cellphone. Credit cards are necessary in modern life because they allow individuals to access their money instantly and because they can be better protected than physical money.

However, no matter how secure a credit card is—once it’s lost or stolen, its safest features are locking and decommissioning it. If the cardholder cannot locate their credit card, some financial institutions allow users to pause or freeze a card; however, if the user cannot find the card, getting a new one fixes most of the potential security risks associated with the loss. Knowing the immediate steps to take once you notice your credit card is missing helps mitigate threats and safeguard consumer data and financials.

Credit Card is Lost or Stolen

Here’s what to do if you lose your credit card.

Immediate Actions When Lost Credit Card 

If your credit card is lost, the first step you should take is to retrace your steps. Return to the last place you remember seeing the card and scour the area for it, remembering that it may have slid behind or between thin cracks and spaces. If you cannot locate the card, contact the issuer. They can lock, freeze, and decommission your card and then send you a new one with new credentials.

After that, consider reporting the card lost if you suspect foul play. Then, review the recent transactions of the account. If the card were stolen and misused, there would be proof of unfamiliar purchases. Additionally, consider freezing your credit, mainly if the stolen credit card had a significant balance.

Contact Your Bank or Card Issuer 

Users can immediately thwart many types of credit card fraud by contacting the card issuer or provider. For most consumers, the most straightforward way to contact them will be via their official mobile application—although options to call and speak to them online also may exist. Those who use their phone application can likely use “Support” to speak with someone, but others may be able to “lock” their card outright.

Regardless of the communication method, notifying the card provider is a significant step toward protecting the missing card (and its attached account). Once the provider places a “stolen” tag on the card when it is next used, the authorities and account holder are contacted.

Report the Loss or Theft 

Promptly contacting the bank or credit card issuer to report the missing card is vital to keeping the account secure despite the loss. Immediate action allows the connected systems to alter permission access and implement stricter security requirements. Moreover, notifying multiple agencies of the potential missing card can help prevent damages from occurring rather than allowing the criminal to cause the damage and help the victim seek retribution.

Report any stolen credit card to:

  • The card issuer to seek a new card and alert them to potential issues
  • The financial institution associated with its account, to set up alerts
  • The Federal Trade Commission, to help mitigate fraud and find the culprit
  • The local authorities, to help assist potential other crimes and retribution
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation, to help catch the cybercriminal
  • The credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union, to freeze credit

Review Your Recent Transactions 

Upon noticing the card is missing, users should review their account activity immediately. Lost credit cards may have no new activity, but if stolen and misused, that activity would appear within the most recent transactions. Users reviewing their transaction history should be wary of small transactions and purchases; if a criminal misuses the card, these minor purchases may be them sniffing around and testing security.

Consider Freezing Your Credit 

Regardless of whether the missing card is a debit or a credit, if the card is missing, it might be time to freeze your credit with the major bureaus. Putting a freeze on your credit allows you to stop any changes that may occur in the immediate future, even if those are mortgage and loan credit requests (which can lower a high credit score through hard inquiries). Moreover, with a credit freeze, malicious actors cannot collect credit-changing benefits or have free reign over their victim’s accounts, which helps mitigate and prevent credit-related identity theft.

Follow-Up Measures

After taking the steps above, follow up with the steps below. Unless you’ve found the missing card, consider replacing it, especially if it may have been stolen. Upon getting the new card, update automatic payment schedules with the new payment numbers. Lastly, begin setting up activity alerts to notify you whenever something changes within your account.

Replace Your Lost Credit Card with a New One 

Unless your card has a tracker built into it, you’ll be unlikely to find it by saying “find my card” to an automated assistant. Instead, the most likely solution consumers will have available is to order a new card from the provider.

Depending on the card issuer’s security and the institution, most users can access their account and complete the process using online support guides. However, other users may be forced to speak with support to prove their identity and clarify any account-related questions, like locks on the card and verifying the user’s mailing address.

Update Automatic Payments 

Users must update their payment information for recurring payments and subscriptions if a card is locked, stolen, lost, or deactivated. Not updating this information can be an issue for consumers, as late fees and no-payment fines can quickly eat away a bank account balance (especially when those fees come from the IRS or a student loan account). Moreover, not changing these payment details can result in the loss of benefits, ending contracts or services, and comprehensive frustration.

Monitor Your Accounts 

Once a card’s unique information is stolen, it and its attached account are forever endangered. Credit card fraud can occur hours after a criminal obtains the vital information to access an account. Still, the thieves will often wait to use the card and account until they have a reason to extrapolate money or until they can sell it.

Cybercriminals who sell account information online are notoriously challenging to stop. Even when the authorities stop one criminal, there’s no telling who else they may have shared information with, permanently endangering the compromised account. However, if the user does not obtain new credentials, consistent monitoring can help prevent the future misuse of these accounts.

Preventative Strategies for the Future 

In the future, those who have lost their credit cards might consider preventative and mitigative measures to protect their financial security. Options like using digital wallets and virtual cards can release the stress of knowing where a card is at all times. Transaction alerts are also essential to be current on an at-risk account. They can notify account holders of nuanced changes within their accounts—triggering from withdrawals, transfers, and deposits. Lastly, those who have lost their cards might consider securing their data through shredding, incinerating, or otherwise censoring their physical information.

Preventative Strategies for the Future 

Using Digital Wallets and Virtual Cards

Digital wallets are an increasingly chosen solution for preventing card-related threats. These wallets function as the name implies, with the access coming from the account holder’s phone, watch, or other approved device. Digital wallets hold all the account owner’s virtual cards, which they can readily access and use to pay for purchases.

Virtual cards allow users to leave home without physical cards, better protecting them from being physically stolen and slimming down our nightwear. Virtual options are also more readily available than cards, allowing for improved convenience and security. 

Set Transaction Alerts 

Although all banks offer different options and settings for notifications, users can usually access them by entering their accounts and exploring the Notices settings. Many banks offer blanket notifications, allowing users to receive a notification every time an account changes, while others offer notices at set intervals and when certain conditions are met.

For example, a user may request a notification once a week or once a day. Accounts can notify users through push notifications on their phones, emails, text messages, or voice calls. They might add additional conditions to receive a notification, requesting “notify me if:”

  • The balance changes more than $___ up or down
  • There is a withdrawal of under or above $___
  • There is a deposit of under or above $___
  • Scheduled payments are successful
  • New Device login attempts
  • Password alteration attempts
  • Contact information for the account changes

Secure Your Personal Information 

Safeguarding personal information online and in physical forms is simple when users understand how, why, and what criminals seek to exploit. Criminals might be after organization or personal data, network accesses, liquid funds, identity or financial accounts to exploit, or any other element that might help them further their goals. For the consumer, this means they want to know everything about a potential victim—from how they can manipulate them to the routing number of their checking account; thus, consumers should strive to conceal as much as they can about themselves online.

It’s not enough for consumers to recognize and avoid obvious scams like phishing attacks. They should also consider privatizing their public accounts, removing images and videos from social media, and blocking strangers who send unsolicited messages. Simultaneously, they should also consider censoring their address, mail, and documents before throwing them away; incinerating or shredding items with personal information is a significant factor in the success of dumpster-diving scammers.

No matter if a card is missing or stolen, the response to the threat will be similar: retracing steps, contacting the issuer, reporting the event, and obtaining a new card. It’s best to update cards yearly to increase security, but some consumers may benefit from more frequent changes. If one of your payment cards goes missing, prompt action, vigilant monitoring, and implementing preventative measures will help mitigate future incidents of financial loss and theft.

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