Written By Jason Steele
Lost credit card claims climb 19 percent during the holidays. Here are five ways that you can keep track of your cards, and another three steps to take when your card is lost or stolen…
How to keep your cards secure
1. Always know where your cards are. I prefer to keep one or two cards that I use the most in my wallet at all times. The rest of them are in a separate, secure place. You should never leave your wallet or purse unattended, even for a few seconds.
2. Don’t share your card numbers or security codes. It can be tempting to give out this information over the phone or via email to someone who needs to make a purchase for you. Unfortunately, this information can be intercepted electronically or by just reading off a piece of paper it was copied on too. If you trust someone enough to give out your credit card number, you can just make that person an authorized user on your account. Otherwise, keep your card numbers to yourself.
3. Be sure to get your card back after purchases. It sounds obvious, but many cards have been lost like this. Sometimes you may be able to retrace your steps and contact the merchant the card was left with, but many times it’s lost for good. Be especially careful at restaurants, since it’s easy to miss your card hidden under a receipt.
4. Keep your card in sight when it’s being used for a transaction. Don’t wander away when you hand your card to the clerk at a store – you never want to give the wrong person the opportunity to copy its information. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible at most restaurants, a fact that was recently highlighted when The New York Times reported on a massive credit card fraud ring that was being run by waiters at a Manhattan steakhouse.
5. Scrutinize every statement. In the New York case, perpetrators are alleged to have made small charges to stolen credit cards in order to determine if account holders would notice the fraudulent charges. Only then did they attempt to make larger transactions. By closely examining each line of your statements, you can respond to all unauthorized charges no matter how small.
Even if you take every precaution, you will probably have one of your credit cards lost or stolen. When it happens to you, here are the steps you need to take…
1. Call your bank immediately. Once you report your card lost or stolen, a replacement should be immediately sent out. In many cases, banks will even overnight the new card to customers upon request – and at no charge.
2. If the card is stolen, file a police report. This is a smart step to take, and one that can be surprisingly easy. Many municipalities allow citizens to quickly file reports such as these online.
3. Notify other authorized users. With some banks, a single lost or stolen card will require the replacement of the cards for all authorized users. In these cases, you should advise the other cardholders on your account to destroy their cards while they await replacements from the bank.
Lost and stolen credit cards can be a hassle, but unlike cash, customers almost never suffer any monetary loss. In these cases, federal law limits cardholder losses to $50 – although most banks have a written or de facto zero-liability policy. Check with financial institution what on your accounts liability.