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What To Do If You Lose Your Credit Card

Jan 9, 2008
Do you know what to do if your credit cards or ATM cards are stolen? You might be surprised at how many people do not.

All consumers should know that the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) offer procedures if your cards are lost or stolen.

In general, here is what you should do:

You should report the loss or theft of your credit card or ATM card to the card issuers as soon as possible. This is easy to do as most companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour customer service set up to deal with these types of problems. It is always a good idea to follow up the phone call with a letter. Within the letter, include your account number, when you discovered that your card was missing, and the date you first reported the loss to the company.

For Credit Card Loss: According to the FCBA, if you report the loss before the cards are used the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges. If the card is used before you report it missing, the most you will be responsible for in unauthorized charges is $50 per card. This is true even if your credit card is used at an ATM machine to access your credit card account.

Consumers should always review the next billing statements carefully. If you find any unauthorized charges, send a letter to the card company describing each unauthorized charge. You will need to let them know the date your card was lost or stolen and when you first reported the loss to them. Make sure you send this letter to the address provided for billing errors and not to the place where you send your payments unless you are told to do so.

In the event your ATM card is lost or stolen: Report your loss to the issuer as soon as possible. If you report an ATM card missing before it is used without your permission, the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized withdrawals. Keep in mind that if an unauthorized use occurs before you report the loss to the issuer, the amount that you can be held liable for will depend on how quickly you reported the loss. For example, if you report the loss within two business days after you realize your card is missing, you will not be responsible for more than $50 for its unauthorized use.

If you do not report the loss within two business days after you discover the loss, you could be liable for up to $500. If you wait until more than sixty days have passed, you may be liable for unlimited amounts if you fail to report an unauthorized transfer or withdrawal within 60 days after your bank statement is mailed to you. That means you could lose all the money in your bank account and the unused portion of your line of credit established for overdrafts.

If unauthorized ATM transactions are on your bank statement, report them to the card issuer as soon as possible. Once you have notified the issuer of the loss, you cannot be held liable for additional amounts, even if more unauthorized transactions are made.

Because of these time limits it is always a good idea to check your cards often to see that you still have them.
About the Author
Peter Kenny is a writer for The Thrifty Scot, please visit us at Remortgages and Credit Cards
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