What to Do When You Lose a Credit Card (or Your Wallet)

by David Ning · 13 comments

Losing a credit card is never fun, but here are some pointers in case it ever happens to you.

  1. Call the credit card company – Most suggest saving all the phone numbers somewhere but how many of us do that and when is that location ever accessible when we find out that our cards are missing?  Instead, try asking your friend who have a similar card (it’s on the back of the card), go to the online accounts website or reading it off the monthly bill.
  2. Call immediately (most credit card companies have a 24 hour hot line) and try to remember when your last purchase was to verify whether there were fraudulent charges.  Forget about the advice of having your account number because trying to get that usually delays you calling.  Cancel that card right away to avoid being charged for purchases you did not make.
  3. Mail them a letter stating the lost even though you called.  This is to make sure that in the case the person over the phone doesn’t cancel everything correctly, you have proof that you already filed a claim.
  4. You are only liable for $50 of fraudulent charges if you report the lost of your credit card under federal law (Fair Credit Billing Act).  If charges are made after you reported your card stolen, you assume no liability.
  5. Call the credit report agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) as well and report the theft.  Ask them to attach a fraudulent alert to your credit cards.
  6. Pay extra attention to your billing statements to make sure that charges are all valid.

Some More Tips to Prevent Losing Your Credit Cards

Of course, some adjustments can help reduce the chances that your credit cards get lost drastically.  Here are a few to consider:

  1. Only carry cards that you need with you.  You really don’t need your credit card army to march with you to the mall.
  2. Put them in a wallet or holder, don’t just use a rubber band or money clip as they are not as secure.
  3. Make sure your wallet is secure in your pocket (or purse).  What’s even worst than losing the credit card?  The whole wallet slipping out and losing it all.
  4. Don’t put your credit cards in an unattended place – You would think that this never happens, but those that play sports (or go to a gym) often leave their wallets and bags unattended.
  5. Bag Check – Don’t check your bag at the airport with your credit cards in it.
  6. If you have to do this, leave it in a bag that’s worn out and old (personal experience – the bag that’s the newest and most expensive looking always get stolen first).
  7. Never carry your wallet in your hand – the solution to a wallet being too big to fit in the purse or too uncomfortable to fit in your pocket is to get a smaller one.
  8. Periodic Check – check to make sure your wallet is still there every once in a while.  If you find it missing, there are fewer possible places where it can be.
  9. Never lend your credit card out – You may think this is crazy but I know many people who lend out their Costco membership card to their friends so they can buy something.  It is dangerous, not to mention probably against the rules if not downright illegal.
  10. Know how many credit cards you have (and are carrying with you).  It makes it easy to spot check whether you still have them or not.

Further Reading

Got a missing credit card story you want to share?  Do you have any tips and tricks about what to do when you lose your credit cards?  Leave a comment below.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy January 21, 2009 at 9:12 am

Great practical advice. I printed it out and stored it in my drawer just in case I ever lose that stupid card. Thanks for putting this together.

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studenomics January 21, 2009 at 10:31 am

One rule that I follow is that I do not carry cards that I do not absolutely need. When I do carry cards I make sure that they are in my pocket at all times. I do not take any chances when it comes to credit cards or even social insurance cards. If the wrong person gets their hands on either card they can really add some stress to your life.

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Mrzfitz January 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm

What about not using credit cards. Use the debit card that your checking account has as don’t spend anymore than you have…

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MoneyNing January 21, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Sandy: Glad to hear that you will print it out. Remember to use the link under “Promote the Article” to get a printable version of it.

studenomics: I never understood why anyone who carry their social security card in their wallets. That’s just a recipe for disaster.

Mrzfitz: Not using credit cards is definitely great advice for some to control their expenses. For others who has the discipline to only use it when they can pay it off, the rewards on the credit cards is like free money.

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Craig January 21, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Carry them only when needed is good advice, but since most people keep their cards in their wallet, and wallets on them at all time you are naturally going to have them around, and it’s not bad to. Even more so, if you are really concerned about it falling out of pocket or someone stealing it from you, keep your wallet in your front pocket, that way you always know it is there.

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Sam January 21, 2009 at 4:49 pm

lol: Know how many credit cards you have.

If you can’t keep track of how many you have, you have too many. I saw someone on Oprah who had 22 credit cards. That’s just too many.

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Associate Money January 22, 2009 at 4:08 am

Thanks for all the great tips. At least, now we know what to do, instead of feeling helpless and angry over a lost credit card.

I think the part about calling and then mailing the credit card company something in black and white is important, just in case disputes arise over the fraudulent charges.

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ngan hang January 22, 2009 at 9:57 am

Many woman put their mobile in wallet. if the wallet was stolen with all penny. hardly to call to the bank.

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fresno karate January 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Something to do BEFORE you lose your wallet: Make a photocopy of everything in it, front and back. That way you will have all the phone numbers at your fingertips. Also, NEVER carry your social security card in your wallet. That is an identity thief’s ticket into your financial house. Keep the card and the photocopies (and a copy of this article) in a secure but accessible place. Finally, sign the back of your cards. I hear people say that they don’t sign them so the merchant will ask to see their id. That’s nuts. It often doesn’t work AND if you do lose your cards, a thief can now just sign your name in their own handwriting and they’ve hit the credit card lottery. If you feel you must write “Check ID” on your card, go ahead. Just do it *after* you sign it.

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Stock Investing Guru January 26, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Yes I agree. Even if you think there’s a chance you might still find your credit card, just call and have it cancelled. A friend of mine had lost their credit card at a restaurant. An hour later, he realized it was gone. There was already a charge for shoes at FootLocker on it.

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cody February 25, 2009 at 6:27 am

i like pie. ^_^

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Maria Hernandez April 23, 2014 at 11:04 pm

My stupid brother lost my credit card and im afraid someone might find it and buy stuff

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David Ning April 24, 2014 at 4:11 pm

You should call the credit card company up ASAP and ask them to reissue your card with a new number.

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