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What to Do If You Lose Your Debit Card

By Rebecca Lake · March 08, 2023 · 9 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What to Do If You Lose Your Debit Card

If you lose your debit card, quick action is vital to protect your bank account and avoid fraudulent transactions. What’s more, taking steps ASAP can help you avoid the headache of not being able to tap or swipe your way through your day — from buying coffee in the morning to paying at the supermarket on your way home from work.

Whether you’ve misplaced your card or believe it to be stolen, here’s what you need to know and do. Read on to learn the answers to:

•   What can happen if I lose my debit card?

•   What steps should I take if I lose my debit card?

•   Can I lose money if my debit card is stolen?

•   How can I get money if I lose my debit card?

What Can Happen If You Lose Your Debit Card?

Losing a debit card can temporarily leave you without convenient access to your bank account. However, it can also open you up to different types of bank fraud if someone finds your lost debit card and is able to use it to make purchases or withdraw cash.

You may wonder, What can someone do with my bank account number? And can they swipe with your piece of plastic? Whether someone is able to use your debit card to tap into the funds in your bank account can depend on whether they also have your PIN (or personal identification number) and where they try to use the card.

•   If you’ve written your PIN on the back of the card, which is generally something you shouldn’t do, the person who finds your debit card might be able to use it to buy things online or at a store or get cash at an ATM up to the ATM withdrawal limit.

•   If your card is enabled for tap to pay, they may not even need your PIN to make fraudulent purchases. While some cash registers that allow contactless payments require a PIN to complete the transaction, many do not. So someone could just tap your card to pay, potentially leaving you to foot the bill for those purchases.

Debit card cloning is also a possibility. When someone clones your debit card, they essentially make a copy of it that can be used to make purchases or withdraw cash. The card itself is counterfeit, but it works the same way as your legitimate bank card.

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Steps to Take If You Lose Your Debit Card

Realizing your debit card has gone missing can leave you feeling a little panicky. However, it’s important to stay calm so you can rectify the situation and protect your sense of financial security. Here are the steps to take when dealing with a lost debit card.

•   Lock your card if possible. Your bank may allow you to lock your card through online or mobile banking. Locking your card right away can prevent anyone who finds it from using it to make unauthorized purchases or withdraw cash.

•   Report a lost debit card to your bank. If you believe your debit card is truly lost or has been stolen, rather than just hiding somewhere in your home or at the bottom of your bag, the next step is letting the bank know. You’ll need to call (or visit a branch) to cancel the card and request a replacement, which may take a week. Your bank may offer the option for expedited delivery (within two or three days) in exchange for a fee.

   Some banks may charge a small fee to replace the card, though many larger financial institutions will do so for free.

•   Confirm the debit card is lost in writing. A lost debit card can be an opportunity for thieves to snatch your money. Documenting the loss via an email or letter is important for minimizing your liability for any resulting losses.

•   Cancel automatic payments linked to the card. If you’ve scheduled any automatic transfers or bill payments using your debit card, you’ll need to cancel them. Once you receive your new debit card, you can update your payment information with your billers. Yes, it’s a hassle, but it’s a wise money management move.

•   Monitor your accounts. If you’re worried that someone might have used your debit card to make fraudulent transactions, it’s important to check your bank account activity daily. Look for any purchases you don’t remember making or any small deposits, aka micro deposits. These can indicate that someone is attempting to link your card to an outside bank account.

Recommended: Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards

Can You Get Your Money Back If It Was Stolen?

Federal law determines what losses you’re liable for if your debit card is stolen and someone uses it to make fraudulent transactions. However, time is of the essence for limiting liability. It’s therefore important to report a lost debit card to your bank promptly.

Here’s how much you might be liable for, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), depending on when you report the loss.

If you report the loss…

Your maximum loss is…

Before any unauthorized charges are made $0
Within 2 business days after you learn about the loss or theft $50
More than 2 business days after you learn about the loss or theft, but within 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you $500
More than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you All the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, and possibly more — for example, money in accounts linked to your debit account

These limits also apply to lost ATM cards as well. So again, the most important thing you can do when dealing with a lost debit card is to report it to your bank as soon as possible.

How Can You Get Cash When You’ve Lost Your Debit Card?

I lost my debit card. How can I get money?

That’s a good question (and often a pressing one), and the answer can depend on whether you bank at a traditional bank vs. an online bank. If you keep your checking and savings accounts at a brick-and-mortar bank or credit union, you should still be able to withdraw cash at a teller window during normal business hours. You could also write paper checks to pay bills or make purchases temporarily.

If you have accounts at an online bank, then you may be limited to transferring funds from your online account to a linked account at a traditional bank. You could also use a mobile payment app to make purchases or send money to friends and family if you’ve linked it to your bank account.

At some banks, you may be able to get a digital version of your replacement debit card to use until the plastic version arrives. It’s worthwhile to ask about that possibility.

Tips for Keeping Your Debit Card Safe

Taking steps to protect your debit card can minimize the odds of it being lost or stolen. Being proactive can also help you spot potential identity theft or fraud before someone is able to clean out your bank accounts.

Here are a few tips for keeping your debit card safe.

•   Leave your debit card at home in a secure location if you won’t need it while you’re out and about.

•   Don’t share your PIN with anyone and don’t write it on the back of your debit card.

•   Consider linking your card to a mobile wallet app so you won’t need to have it physically with you to make purchases.

•   Use caution when using a debit card online to make purchases. Only shop with trusted sites that encrypt your financial information.

•   Monitor your bank accounts regularly to look for any suspicious activity.

•   Consider setting up bank account alerts or notifications to let you know when new transactions occur.

•   Ask your bank if cardless withdrawal is an option, which allows you to get money at the ATM without having to present your card.

•   Think about using credit cards in place of your debit card as credit cards can offer greater protections against fraud and unauthorized charges.

What is a debit card good for? Quite a lot, when you think about it. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re keeping your card protected.

The Takeaway

A debit card can make managing your finances easier, but if you lose your card, quick action is vital. Taking steps to secure your account will help ward off loss if the card has been stolen. The sooner you report the loss, the sooner you will also be on your way to getting a replacement and restoring access to your account and funds.

Choosing the right bank also matters. The best bank accounts offer easy access to funds when you need them while keeping the fees to a minimum. When you open an online bank account with SoFi, you’ll enjoy those benefits. Our Checking and Savings account lets you spend and save in one convenient place; offers a competitive annual percentage yield (APY); and charges no account fees. It’s a great way to bank smarter and help your savings grow faster.

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How long does it take to get a new debit card if you lost it?

It can take seven business days or more to receive a new debit card if yours is lost. You may be able to get your card faster (in a couple of days) if you request expedited delivery, though you might need to pay a fee. Some banks offer digital versions of your debit card that you can use while you wait for a replacement.

Can someone use my debit card if I lost it?

Someone might be able to use your lost debit card if they know your PIN or the card is enabled for contactless payments. They may also be able to clone the card to use it for fraudulent transactions. For those reasons, it’s important to freeze, lock, or cancel your card as soon as you realize it’s lost.

How much does it cost if you lose your debit card?

Banks can charge a fee to replace a lost or stolen debit card. The amount you’ll pay can depend on the bank and whether you choose an expedited or rush delivery option. At some banks, there is no charge to replace a lost debit card, but at others you might pay a small fee.

Will a replacement debit card have the same number?

If you’re replacing a stolen or lost debit card, the new card will have a different number, expiration date, and three-digit security code. If you’re getting a replacement debit card because your old card has expired, the number on the card will be the same, but the expiration date and three-digit security code on the bank will be different.

Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson

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