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What to do when your credit card is lost or stolen

Simple steps to follow and contact details you'll need if your credit card is lost or stolen.

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Maybe you could’ve been more careful with your card or maybe you are the victim of professional thieves. Regardless, if your credit card is lost or stolen, there are a few easy steps you can take to get your finances back in your hands. Regardless of whether you're with ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac or any of the other major Australian credit card issuers, you can use this guide to find out exactly what you need to do if your credit card is missing.

Action steps for dealing with a stolen or lost credit card

As soon as you discover that your credit card is missing, act immediately. If you suspect that your card has been tampered with, there is really only one action step to take: Call your credit card issuer right now.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. You’d rather cancel a card by mistake than allow some identity thief to rack up thousands of dollars on your account. You may be tempted to take your time with this, but it pays to be quick in such situations because the person in possession of your card may use it at any moment. You also might be thinking of logging into your online banking account to check if anyone has used your card yet. Don’t bother wasting those precious minutes. Call the bank or card company and report the loss or theft first. They’ll be able to tell you if anyone has used it, right after they freeze your card to prevent exactly that.

Learn more about how to prevent identity theft

How to report a lost or stolen credit card with your bank

Here’s when you realise that it pays to keep those emergency phone numbers handy in your wallet or stored on your mobile phone. Card issuers are available 24/7 for aiding with crisis moments like these, so pick up your phone, dial directory assistance and ask to be connected with your bank. Even if you’ve lost your credit card while overseas, there should be some sort of 24-hour Global Customer Assistance number you can reach.

Here are the contact numbers of some of the major banks:

BankContact number (Australia)Contact number (overseas)
st.george logo1800 028 208+612 9553 5333

bank of melbourne logo
1800 772 266+613 9982 4186
coles logo1800 005 809+613 9420 4818

citi logo
13 24 84+612 8225 0615
american express logo1300 132 639+612 9271 8664
nab logo1800 033 103+613 8641 9121
anz logo1800 033 844+613 9683 7043
virgin money logo13 37 39+612 8288 2222
hsbc provider logo13 21 52+612 9005 8511
westpac logo1300 130 961+612 9293 9270
commbank logo13 22 21+612 9999 3283
people's choice logo13 11 82+612 8299 9101
imb logo13 34 62 (business hours); 1800 800 521 (after hours)+612 4298 0111

What happens if my card has already been fraudulently used?

Fortunately, your card will be frozen or cancelled the moment you reported the theft, so that will put an end to the illegal shopping spree. Even better, most major credit cards have their own version of fraud protection, such as Visa's Zero Liability Policy and Mastercard's Zero Liability Agreement, for scenarios like yours. This means that you will not be held liable for those fraudulent transactions as long as some conditions are fulfilled.

Mastercard’s Zero Liability Agreement

Mastercard’s Zero Liability Agreement relieves you of liability, provided that you’ve shown that you took care to protect your card from the loss, theft or unauthorised use, and notified your financial institution immediately after discovering that you card was missing. You must also not have reported more than one such incident in the last 12 months, your account must be in good standing, and you must be in compliance with the terms and conditions of the cardholder agreement.

Visa’s Zero Liability Policy

Visa’s Zero Liability Policy similarly protects you from fraud, except it does not apply to ATM transactions or transactions that were not processed by Visa. Certain commercial card transactions are also not covered by the policy.

You should directly consult your card issuer about whether you are covered in your particular circumstances. An investigation will usually be required and may take up to a few weeks, during which time you may be offered a card replacement. Your credit limit in the interim may also be subject to discussion with your card issuer, depending on your type of card and their card policies.

Read our thorough guide on credit card fraud traps and scams

Mistakes to avoid when reporting a lost or stolen credit card

  • Procrastination. This is a big one when it comes to reporting the theft or loss of a card. A minute can make all the difference between dodging a bullet and letting that thief successfully swipe your card. On top of that, you shouldn’t give your card issuer any grounds to accuse you of negligence.
  • Negligence. Negligence can disqualify you from receiving fraud protection, but the onus remains on your card provider to prove that you were negligent. This is usually unlikely, but if the thief had been able to withdraw money using your card because you’d done something silly like write your PIN on it, chances are you’re going to be liable for that loss.
  • Administration in the aftermath. Depending on your card issuer and card policy, a fraud investigation may result in your account being frozen for the period. If this should happen, be sure to make the necessary arrangements in the interim. If you have automatically scheduled payments on this card, take care to make alternative arrangements for paying your bills to avoid late fees or penalties.

Word of caution

To avoid experiencing this sort of anxiety again in future, make sure to do whatever it takes to keep your belongings safe, be it deploying lock and key or having your wallet chained to you at all times. Prevention is better than cure, so stay vigilant!

Images: Shutterstock

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