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What to Do if You Lose Your Credit Card or Wallet

It's a sinking feeling no one wants to experience: Your credit card isn't in your wallet, or worse, your entire wallet is missing. Whether you left it in the grocery store checkout line, next to the gas pump at the filling station, or simply misplaced it, losing a credit card or wallet can be an upsetting and frustrating experience. Knowing your options and steps to take can help.

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  1. Lock or freeze your card. If you're not sure where your card is but think you can locate it, consider locking or freezing your card. Doing so buys you time by preventing anyone else from using it to make charges, plus it also saves you the hassle of having to cancel the card and wait for a replacement in the mail. Its good to check with your card carrier to see if this option is available. This feature can often be activated through a smartphone app or by logging in to your account online.

  2. Contact your card issuer. If you're unable to locate your card after a thorough search, contact your card issuer to cancel it. Your liability for the unauthorized use of your credit card is capped at $50, in accordance with the Fair Credit Billing Act. Some credit card issuers also offer zero liability as a card feature. When you call, your credit card company will likely ask for information on the last time you used the card and then review recent charges with you over the phone to see if any are fraudulent.

  3. File a police report if your card was stolen. Doing so could help police identify patterns of criminal activity in a specific area, store or business – reducing the risk for other victims. Additionally, if your entire wallet is stolen, including your driver's license, the thief could use that information for financial fraud or potential identify theft. Get out in front of any problems by obtaining a police report and carefully monitoring your credit reports for unusual activity.

These are some tips to minimize your risk for lost or stolen cards in the future:

  1. Carry only what you need. Rather than keeping all your credit and debit cards in your wallet, carry only the one or two cards you use most frequently. Store all the others in a secure location, like a fireproof lockbox. When cards expire or are replaced, cut up or shred the old ones. Be sure to cut through the account number.

  2. Keep a record of your credit cards in a secure location. Consider including the account numbers, expiration dates, and the issuers' telephone numbers. If a card is ever lost or stolen, it will be easier to report what's missing. If you do this, be sure this information is kept in a location no one else can access.

  3. Regularly check your credit card statements. Get in the habit of reviewing charges at least once each month. Smartphone apps for credit cards make it easy to skim recent charges; there's no need to wait until a billing statement arrives. You can even set up push notifications that alert you to higher-than-normal charges or unusual activity patterns. The sooner you spot an inconsistency, the faster you and the card issuer can take action.

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