The Cost and Inconvenience of Losing your Convenient Plastic

“Some things you should try hard not to mislay; your children, the keys and your credit cards are three of them in no particular order. If you lose your cards, or indeed if they are stolen, you need to act immediately to minimize your potential losses.”

However you keep your cards you may misplace them and not notice for a while. You are vulnerable between the time that they go missing for any reason, including theft, and your reporting it. It is essential you act as soon as you discover the cards are not where you thought they were. If they turn up later you will have lost nothing; you just have the inconvenience of no cards until replacements are arranged. That is a small price to pay against the potential losses you will face if you delay reporting.

Report Immediately

The number you need to report loss or theft is on your statement or you may be able to report the problem online. If you provide your account number, the date of the loss or theft and the last purchase you made if you can remember further use will be blocked. You should confirm things in writing ideally. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is in place to prevent any fraudulent activity once you have made the report and your liability on such activity is limited to $50 per transaction. You could still face quite a bill if the fraudster has been busy and there may be a few days between your actually losing the card and your report. In some cases you will have total protection as a benefit that comes with the card but that still does not mean you should be complacent.

You have to know where your credit and debit cards are at all times. If you regularly use them at the ATM then it is likely they will be in your wallet which you probably open several times a day. You should not carry them loose; that is an easy way to lose them; they may simply fall out of your pocket.

Inconvenient

Whether your cards are lost or stolen, it is a great inconvenience. Many people carry little cash these days. They use credit, ATM and debit cards to pay for anything from gas for their automobiles to household and grocery purchases and restaurant bills. Those people are the least likely to leave it any length of time before finding a card missing; it is more likely to be theft than loss in this case. The consequences arte similar whatever the reason.

Widespread Use

Card use is still enormous in the USA. Many people built up balances on their credit cards prior to the recession and some have taken consolidation Installment loans to reduce the interest payments they are facing. Some defaulted on their cards but there are still enormous numbers being used even if the companies are no longer marketing them as aggressively as they once did. The main reason for their widespread use is sheer convenience and as long as cards are used sensibly convenience outweighs every other consideration. However when a card is lost or stolen convenience becomes inconvenience. New cards will be issued promptly though there will always be a time lag.

You could still face some costs however and it is worth your finding out the small detail of what your credit, ATM or debit card provider includes in the terms and conditions for use. In the meantime perhaps you should keep an eye on the cards, just like you do with your kids.

Anum

Anum Yoon is the founder and editor of Current on Currency. She loves all things personal finance, which is why you'll find her work all over the PF blogosphere.