Help! I Lost My Prepaid Debit Card!

Adam Rust

Five steps to take if your card is lost or stolen, or if you believe someone has stolen your PIN number:

1) Call the card company right away.

Notify your bank or credit union as soon as you have the reason to believe that your card is lost or stolen. The same is true if you think someone has obtained your debit card PIN.

Once your card is lost or stolen, do not wait for your bank to decide that unusual activity is occurring.

Time is of the essence. The sooner you let the bank know, the better off you will be. If you alert your card company within two business days after you had realized your card or card PIN was lost or stolen, then the law limits your losses to no more than $50. If it takes you more than two business days to notify the company, then you may be at risk of losing up to $500.

When you let the bank know, they put people to work tracking down the criminals who are stealing your money. The banks work with the FBI and other authorities to look for patterns of activities. Reporting your lost card sooner rather than later makes a difference.   

2) Request a new card:

Your bank or credit union will send a new card with a new 16-digit card number. Some will offer to send the card sooner for an expedited delivery fee. Ask how long it takes for regular service, as the cost for expedited courier delivery can be high.

3) Activate the new card: As was the case when you received your card the first time, you will still have to activate your replacement card before you can use it. You will have to create a new PIN at the time of re-activation.

4) Notify your billers of your new numbers. If you have authorized some of your bills to be paid directly from your account automatically, then you will need to call and have your account information updated. The same is true for the mobile wallets and payment services that you may have in place. You will need to update your Venmo, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, and other payment apps that you have enrolled with your current account number.

5) Review your recent and future statements for any mysterious charges. You will want to make sure that all of the unauthorized activity was stopped.

It is important to realize that while you have canceled your card, you have not canceled your account. It would be a mistake to ask the bank to close your account because you lost your card.

VISA, MasterCard, and Discover will give additional protections to cardholders, but only for certain types of transactions.

Question - What if I see a charge on my statement that I didn't make? 

Your question covers when you still have your card and no one has taken your PIN, but you see an unauthorized expense on your statement. Good catch! You have rights under the law for this problem, as well. The good news is that by reviewing your statement, you have already taken the first step to preventing these kinds of things from happening. 

You have sixty days from the moment when you receive a statement to alert your bank about an unauthorized charge.

Unfortunately, resolving these errors can take some time. If the bank finds that the charges were due to either error or fraud, then it must put the funds back into your account within one business day.

But sometimes it takes a while for the bank to perform a proper review. The law gives the bank a limited period - no more than 20 business days and usually only 10 - to research the transaction. If they cannot resolve the matter during that time, they must temporarily restore the funds to your account (minus a maximum of $50), while they keep working. 

Note: The time period can be different if a) the transactions in question were made in a foreign country b) you never made your complaint in writing or c) all of the transactions were point-of-sale purchases. In those cases, the resolution and the timing of temporary credits can be longer. For more information, refer to the CFPB's comments.

The long and short of it is that the federal government has established strong rules to protect you from fraudsters. The banks will come to your aid, but you must let them know quickly in order to be protected. You have lots of power, but unless you are diligent about reviewing your transaction activity, you will not be able to use it. Be safe, be smart!


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