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What to Do if Your Credit Card Is Lost or Stolen on Vacation

Rebecca Lake

A lost or stolen credit card can be a headache, but even more so when you're on vacation. If you're traveling and your card goes missing, you should:

-- Contact your credit card company.

-- File a police report.

-- Place a fraud alert on your credit report.

Once you come home, you can take extra steps to protect your credit.

If you're concerned about the risk of card loss or theft when you're traveling, here's what you need to know.

[Read: Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards.]

Call the Credit Card Company ASAP

If your credit card is lost or stolen when you're on vacation, contact your credit card company right away. Acting quickly limits your liability for unauthorized charges.

The Fair Credit Billing Act caps your liability for unauthorized credit card charges at $50. But if you report the loss before someone uses your card, you're not on the hook for any fraudulent charges.

When you call your card issuer, expect to review recent charges to confirm whether they are valid. Either way, your credit card will be canceled.

Once you've reported your card as lost or stolen, you will be sent a new one. If your card is with a major issuer, here's how long that could take and vital contact details:

Card Issuer
Reporting Lost or Stolen Cards
Card Replacement
American Express
Call 800-528-4800 to cancel your American Express card.
Next-day replacement is available at no cost.
Bank of America
Sign into online banking, or call 800-732-9194 to cancel your card. Call 757-677-4701 if you're outside the U.S.
Overnight replacement is free.
Capital One
Access your online account or the Capital One app to report a lost or stolen card. Call 800-227-4825 in the U.S. or 800-934-2001 outside the U.S. to report a missing card.
Replacement cards typically arrive in four to six business days. A fee applies for rush delivery.
Call 800-432-3117 or 302-594-8200 if overseas to report a lost or stolen card.
Rush replacement is free and takes one to two days in the U.S.; up to seven days outside the U.S.
Call 1-800-950-5114 to report a lost or stolen card.
Emergency replacement cards can take two to four business days to arrive. Standard shipping is up to
three weeks.
Call 1-800-DISCOVER, or 1-801-902-3100 outside the U.S. to report a lost or stolen card. You can also report a lost or stolen card online or through the Discover mobile app.
Free overnight delivery for replacement cards is available.

If your credit card is not with a major issuer, check the back of the card for the phone number or website to report it lost or stolen. Some issuers will even let you call them collect to report a missing card, says Adam Marlowe, principal experience officer at Georgia's Own Credit Union.

When traveling abroad, you will need to call your credit card company's international customer service line to report your lost or stolen card. You may not be able to get a replacement card right away.

If someone stole your entire wallet, you may need to make a lot of phone calls. Keep a record of the process: Note which credit card companies you've called, who you spoke to and when.

Rush service may be an option if you're stranded on a trip without a credit card. Ask the issuer if your card can be shipped overnight and if a fee applies.

Also, find out whether you can freeze your account. Discover, for instance, has a Freeze It feature for turning cards "on" or "off." This lets you block your card to prevent misuse if you're not sure whether you actually lost it, or you can't report it lost or stolen right away.

[Read: Best Rewards Credit Cards.]

File a Police Report

After you've reached out to your credit card company, file a police report at the nearest station. This creates more documentation that could help you if fraud occurs.

File a report sooner rather than later. The bank or credit card company may require a police report if a fraud investigation is needed to prove that you didn't make the unauthorized charges.

You will need to provide these details for the police report:

-- Your name and contact information

-- The address where you're staying

-- Specifics about your wallet or card, such as your credit card numbers, if you have them

-- Where you suspect the loss or theft occurred

In a foreign country, you may need a translator to help you file a police report. If the local police station doesn't have one, you may need to reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Once you've completed the police report, ask for a copy of it. Also, make sure you get the name and contact information for the officer who took the report.

Keep in mind that a police report doesn't guarantee that a lost or stolen card will be returned to you promptly or at all. This may be true more often in travel destinations, where wallet or purse theft is common, says Matthew Bradley, regional security director, Americas, at risk management firm International SOS.

Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report

A fraud alert is a tool you can use to protect your credit history if your card is lost or stolen when you're on vacation. This notice on your credit report tells creditors to verify your identity before extending credit in your name.

A fraud alert is good for one year. You can also request an extended fraud alert, which lasts for seven years, but you'll need either a police report or Federal Trade Commission identity theft report.

Take note that a fraud alert isn't the same as a credit freeze or credit monitoring. A credit monitoring service charges you a fee to watch your credit reports and alert you to changes that could affect your credit score.

A credit freeze does more than pause access to your credit card. It shuts down your credit report so new accounts can't be opened in your name. Only creditors and lenders who already can access your credit report, such as your mortgage company, will retain that access. Placing and lifting a credit freeze with one or all three major credit bureaus is free.

If you've reported your card lost or stolen, filed a police report and placed a fraud alert on your credit file, adding credit monitoring services or freezing your credit could provide extra peace of mind.

[Read: Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards.]

Reduce the Risk of a Lost or Stolen Credit Card

The best way to avoid a lost or stolen credit card on vacation is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Before and during your trip, you can take steps to decrease the chances of your card disappearing.

Bradley's advice for vacationers:

-- Record which cards you're taking. Take a photo of the front and back of each card with your smartphone, which should have a security lock.

-- Note customer service numbers for each card. That includes international numbers if you're traveling overseas.

-- Conceal cards when carrying them. Consider using a money belt instead of a wallet or carrying a crossbody bag made of cut-proof material.

-- Stick with the card issuer's ATMs and branches if you need to get cash with your card. Avoid suspicious-looking ATMs or ATMs in questionable locations.

-- Limit the cards you carry and bring backup payment options, such as cash or a prepaid debit card.

You might also consider going card-free and loading your card information to a digital wallet such as Apple Pay. But this method isn't without risk, as your phone might be lost or stolen. Having a backup payment method is always a smart idea.

Finally, let your bank or card issuer know your travel plans. This will prevent your card from being flagged for fraud as well as declined charges.

"Be proactive in notifying your issuer where you intend to travel," Marlowe says. "This will help them determine if attempted transactions are potentially fraudulent or not."

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