Having your card vanish in your home city is inconvenient enough. Abroad, a lost or stolen card can spark a chain reaction of inconveniences that unravel a carefully planned trip.
If you’re ever in this situation, follow this step-by-step plan.
1. Notify your issuer: If you have internet access, this part is easy. Bank of America, for example, allows you to report a stolen card via mobile and online banking, says spokeswoman Betty Riess.
If you need to (or prefer to) handle things by phone, call your issuer’s designated collect number for calls from outside the U.S. For American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner), that number is 336-393-1111. For Discover, it’s 801-902-3100. For other cards, it depends on your issuer and will be printed on the back of your card (which is why it’s important to make a copy before you leave).
Another option: Card networks (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) offer hotlines for travel emergencies. They can help you start the process of reporting your card missing and, if other important travel documents (like your passport) were stolen as well, these hotlines can offer guidance.
- Visa: Visit this page to find the hotline for the country in which you’ll be traveling. Visa’s Global Customer Care Assistance services will help guide you through the steps of reporting and replacing a missing card and getting emergency cash, says Davin Chow, vice president of North America credit card products for Visa.
“They may need your account information, so prior to traveling we’d recommend keeping your account information in a safe and secure place,” Chow says.
- MasterCard: Go here for a list of hotlines by country.
- Discover: From outside the U.S., call 1-801-902-3100 to access its Travel Assistance services. Discover discontinued this benefit on Aug. 1, 2015.
- American Express: American Express’s Global Assist hotline can be reached at 715-343-7977.
2. Ask for a replacement: If your location isn’t too remote, your issuer can probably send you a replacement card, says Nessa Feddis, spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association.
Bank of America can typically expedite replacement cards so that they arrive within 24 hours, Riess says. As for American Express, its customer care reps can discuss various replacement options and timetables; no fee will be charged for replacement cards, according to American Express spokesman Dan Clayton.
Expect your issuer to verify your identity before replacing your card. Once your replacement arrives, activate it. You can generally do this by phone, online or via the issuer’s app.
3. Ask about emergency cash: In some cases, your issuer might assist you with getting cash to hold you over until your replacement card arrives. For example, emergency cash is available to Bank of America cardholders if expedited card replacement isn’t timely enough, Riess says.
American Express cardholders traveling more than 100 miles from home can use Global Assist to get an emergency cash wire – after answering security questions to verify their identity, says Clayton.
4. Optional: File a police report: Your issuer probably won’t require this step.
“A police report isn’t necessary for us to invalidate the lost card and send a replacement,” Clayton says. “A Card Member may choose to file a police report, but we do not require it.”
If the thief made off with more than just your cards (your new camera or laptop, for example), a police report is probably a good idea. In fact, it’s instrumental in claiming another of your card’s benefits – reimbursement for stolen items.
Before you leave
If your card is stolen, reporting and replacing it will be easier if you do the following before leaving home:
- Make a list of important numbers: Write down (or save in your phone) the telephone numbers on the back of all your cards, suggests Feddis. Or, make copies of all your cards. That way, you can report the card stolen immediately, which ensures you won’t be held responsible for any charges or withdrawals a thief makes.
These days, most issuers and card networks provide zero liability coverage on their credit cards. In other words, you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized transactions. Things can be more complicated with debit, though. While banks may give you more leeway, by law they can hold you responsible for a thief’s charges if you wait too long to report the card stolen.
So the best thing to do is just report your debit or credit card stolen as soon as it’s gone.
“The point is you don’t have to worry if you report it as soon as you discover it’s missing,” Feddis says. “But if you wait and someone continues to use it, then you might be responsible for some of the fraudulent transactions.”
- Document your account information: Keep your account numbers in a safe, secure place, Chow suggests.
- Have back-up modes of payment: Ideally, this would include cash and an alternative card, Feddis says. Pack them in separate bags (or keep a card in the hotel safe) so that, if the bag holding your wallet is stolen, you won’t lose everything.
- Register for transaction notifications: You can choose to receive SMS or email notifications from your bank about activity on your account, Chow notes. This might alert you to the fact that your card is being used by someone else before you even know it’s gone.