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By Bev O'Shea /
November 16, 2015
DElight—Getty Images

Opening your wallet to pull out a certain credit card (matching rewards with purchases) can make you feel smart. But not being able to find that card — or worse, not being able to find your wallet — is an entirely different experience.

During the busy holiday season, this scenario can happen more often than you think. (People may also frequently leave behind bags of newly purchased merchandise.) Blame stress, fatigue and multitasking. Although we’ve heard “a place for everything, and everything in its place,” we often just have something more urgent to attend to at any given moment. That’s how car keys end up in the refrigerator or the bathroom sink. What should you do if you card appears to have vanished?

1. Take a Second Look

If not in its usual place, your card could still be in your possession. Author Professor Solomon says many objects are within 18 inches of where you expect them to be — he calls it the “Eureka Zone.” This means the card you’re missing could have been shoved into your wallet behind an appointment reminder. Or into a purse instead. It’s worth checking, again, calmly and methodically. (Believe me, it’s frustrating to find a card in your coat pocket the day after you report it lost.) You may also want to think about when you last saw the card, and what you were doing with it. Those can also be clues that may help you track it down.

2. Call Your Issuer

Then again, the card may have slid under a restaurant booth. Or you may have left it in a new chip-card reader or lost it at the airport. If you find it right away, great (maybe — more on that in a moment). But if not, you will want to let your card issuer know and have a replacement card issued. (Unless your card has a feature like Discover’s Freeze it, which lets you temporarily deactivate your card while you are looking for it.)

If you find your card after some time has passed, you may still want to get a replacement, depending on where it turns up. If you overlooked it in your wallet, that’s one thing, but if someone else found the card and turned it in at a store or restaurant, for example, it’s still possible the account information was compromised in the interim. In those cases, it would be smart to get a replacement, even though the physical card has been found, to minimize the odds of experiencing card fraud. (Remember, the new chip card technology won’t prevent fraudulent card-not-present transactions.)

3. Monitor Your Account

Generally, it’s always a good idea to monitor your credit card statements for fraudulent activity. Most credit cards have a zero-liability policy, so you likely won’t be responsible for charges if any unauthorized activity occurs. But the protections aren’t as strong with debit cards, and, in either case, reporting the loss promptly can keep you from being held responsible for fraudulent use.

You’ll want to review your account carefully, even if you had a new card issued, just to be on the safe side. Plus, you will want to check last month’s transactions to remind you of any auto-payments or recurring charges that may need to be updated with the new account numbers once the replacement card arrives. You don’t want your credit score to suffer because a bill went unpaid or was paid late during the changeover to a new card.

How to Avoid Future Problems

It always helps to have the card issuer’s phone number on hand when a card goes missing. Of course, that information would be on the card you can’t find. That’s why it is smart to make a list of card issuer phone numbers and keep it in a safe place. And the time to do this is now, when no cards are missing.

So, in short, here’s what to do to avoid a big problem if your card goes missing: record contact information for card issuers, limit the number of cards you carry and consider keeping a backup payment method in case a card is lost or stolen and has to be replaced.


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