What to Do if You Lost Your Debit Card

Quick Answer

Two of the most important steps you can take after you’ve lost your debit card are locking your card to prevent fraudulent transactions and reporting your lost card to your issuer.

Young woman solo traveler sitting on stairs with suitcase checking her wallet.

It's natural to feel stressed if you've lost your debit card. After all, it's your bank-issued key to making purchases, withdrawing money and more. But once you've discovered that you've lost your debit card, it's time to take action—not panic.

Here, we outline seven steps for what to do after you've lost your debit card.

1. Lock the Card

If you can't locate your debit card, lock (or freeze) the card so it can't be used by someone else. Locking the card might prevent someone from making unauthorized purchases, for example. While the card is locked, recurring or automatic payments (such as utility bills or gym membership dues) should still go through, but check with your bank to be sure.

You usually can lock a debit card by activating the lock feature through your online account or mobile app. What if you quickly find the card after locking it? You can unlock it and once again use it just like you had before. Generally, this can be done through your online account or mobile app.

2. Report the Card as Missing

If you've locked access to your debit card and can't find it anywhere, report the loss to the bank or credit union that issued the card. Look online for the phone number you can use to report a lost or stolen debit card, or use your online account or mobile app to report it. You should be able to contact your financial institution about a lost card 24/7.

When you report the lost card, your bank or credit union usually will deactivate the card and mail a replacement to you. Keep in mind that the financial institution might charge a card replacement fee.

As you await the arrival of your new card, you may be able to temporarily use a virtual card for transactions such as online purchases and ATM withdrawals. You also might be able to obtain a temporary card at a local bank or credit union branch.

3. Review Transactions

Once you've taken care of other urgent matters—such as securing your other financial accounts if you lost your entire wallet—review your account activity either online or on your mobile app. If you see any transactions that you didn't authorize, contact the card issuer right away. Waiting too long to report suspicious transactions might wind up costing you money in the form of unauthorized purchases or withdrawals.

It's critical to report a lost debit card as soon as possible. If you report the lost card within two business days, your liability will be the least of these two amounts:

  • $50
  • The amount of unauthorized transfers that happened before your financial institution was notified

If you don't inform your financial institution of a lost debit card within the two-day window, your financial liability could be as much as $500.

The table below spells out the financial consequences associated with reporting a lost debit card, depending on how quickly you notify the card issuer.

Maximum Possible Debit Card Losses
When the Report Is Made Maximum Loss
Before unauthorized charges are made $0
Within two days of learning about the loss $50
More than two business days after learning about the loss, but within 60 calendar days after your statement is sent $500
More than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent All the money taken from your debit card account and perhaps money in accounts linked to your debit card account

4. Follow Up in Writing

After reporting the lost card, send a letter to the card issuer that includes your account number, the date and time when you noticed your card was missing, and when you first reported the loss, the Federal Trade Commission advises. Keep a copy of the letter, along with any notes you've taken during calls with your bank or credit union.

The letter may prove helpful if you need to dispute unauthorized transactions.

5. Update Billing Information

Once you get the replacement card, you'll need to update your billing information for any accounts that use the card in question. These recurring payments might include utility bills or subscriptions to streaming services, for example. You'll also need to update card information stored in online accounts and digital wallets.

6. Pick a Different PIN

To be on the safe side, choose a new PIN after you've received the replacement debit card. This may help prevent unauthorized transactions in the future. While it's possible the PIN was not compromised, it's also possible that it was nabbed via a card skimmer or shoulder surfing.

Be sure to select a hard-to-guess PIN (such as a jumbled version of a childhood address) instead of an obvious one like 1111 or 1234.

7. Look Into Identity Theft Protection

If your debit card wound up in the hands of an identity crook, you may want to explore identity theft protection.

For example, your card may come with a no-cost service that helps restore your identity and shield you from additional identity harm. Your homeowners insurance policy might provide a similar feature, although you may be charged a small annual fee.

Experian offers free and paid versions of its identity theft protection and monitoring services.

The Bottom Line

If you've lost your debit card, it's crucial to immediately report it to the card issuer to help curb financial harm. Waiting too long to inform the card issuer about a lost debit card could leave you on the hook for hundreds of dollars in unauthorized transactions. After reporting a lost card, closely monitor your account to catch any suspicious activity.