Lost and stolen cards: What to do

Last updated: 29 May 2022   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

If a credit or debit card is lost or stolen, we should act quickly to reduce harm.

Many card operators allow us to freeze the card in our mobile banking apps, giving us time to track it down if we think we've just misplaced it.

If the card cannot be found, we must contact our bank as quickly as possible. They prefer mobile or online contact, but we can also call or visit branches.

While lost and stolen cards only account for 14% of card fraud losses, losing a card or having it stolen can still be a stressful experience.

lost wallet
Credit: R.Ashrafov/Shutterstock.com

What do if you lose your card

If we lose our debit or credit card or think it may have been stolen, there are several steps we should take immediately to safeguard our money.

Freeze the card

Many banks give customers the option to freeze their debit or credit card in their mobile banking app.

This can quickly stop anyone who might have the card from paying for anything with it, making the card worthless to a thief or someone who has found it on the street.

The location of the option to freeze the card will vary between providers and it can also be called 'locking' the card.

Check under card settings in a mobile banking app or look for anything that mentions card management.

These card freezing tools are a great addition to modern banking and they can be reversed the moment we find our card.

So, if we think we've lost our card but we're not sure, we can freeze the card in-app and then unfreeze when we find it.

The ability to freeze or lock a card may also be available via online banking - check on a provider's website or do a quick search to find out it's possible.

Be careful of clicking on any links that might try to steal personal details and only log into online banking through the authorised and secure page provided by a bank.

Cancel the card

If there is no freeze option available on our credit or debit card and we can't find it, the next option is to cancel the card with our provider.

This might seem like an overreaction if we think the card will turn up, but if there's a possibility, we've lost it or it has been taken, we need to act quickly.

Since the contactless limit was raised to £100 in October 2021, it has been easier for thieves to spend money quickly, and we could be deemed negligent if we don't inform our bank as soon as we can.

In addition, cancelling a card promptly can help reduce the possibility of fraud in the future, especially the risk of identity theft if someone with our card tries to pass themselves off as us.

So, we need to cancel a card if we think it's lost or has been stolen.

How to cancel a lost or stolen card

There are three ways to cancel a debit or credit card that has been lost or stolen:

  1. Through our mobile banking app
  2. Through our online banking account
  3. By calling the provider directly

Mobile app and online are the two most convenient methods to cancel our cards, although remember to ensure that we're accessing official apps and websites (read more about online scams).

The process for cancelling a card via mobile or online banking will be different for each provider, but it will be fairly straightforward to find. Banks and credit card providers know customers need to cancel cards quickly and make it as easy as possible.

For customers who don't use mobile and online banking or for those who can't use it at that moment (if, for example, their mobile phone has also been stolen), they should call their bank to cancel the card.

All banks and credit card providers offer a 24-hour service for customers to do this.

Here are the phone numbers for major UK banks if calling from the UK and from overseas:

Bank Calling from the UK Calling from overseas
Bank of Scotland 0800 028 8335 +44 131 454 1605
Barclays 0800 400 100 +44 2476 842 099
Co-operative Bank 0345 600 6000 N/A
Halifax 0800 409 6568 +44 1733 462 248
HSBC 0800 085 2401 +44 1442 422 929
Lloyds 0800 096 9779 +44 1702 278 270
Metro Bank 0345 08 08 500 N/A
Monzo 0800 802 1281 +44 20 3872 0620
Nationwide 0800 055 66 22 +44 1793 65 67 89
NatWest 0370 600 0459 +44 1268 500 813
Royal Bank of Scotland 0370 600 0459 +44 1268 500 813
Santander 0800 9 123 123 +44 1512 648 725
Starling Bank 0207 9304 450 N/A
TSB 0800 015 0030 +44 2074 812 567
Virgin Money 0800 012 1512 +44 191 279 4604

If we call the general number, it might take longer to be routed to the right department, but most automated systems will give us the option to report a lost or stolen card as soon as we place a call to their helpline, so listen out for that.

It might also be possible to cancel a card directly with Visa or Mastercard, but these card companies usually ask cardholders to go through the bank instead. If that isn't an option, visit their websites to find details on how to get in touch with them and/or start a live chat.

Remember that anyone who wants to cancel a card will need to confirm their identity.

When reporting a lost or stolen card the bank or card provider won't ask for a lot of information, but being able to provide the following will help:

  • The name of the card issuer - bank or otherwise.
  • The country where it was issued.
  • The cardholder's name as printed on the card.
  • The postal address associated with the account.
  • The home phone number associated with the account.
  • Details about how the card went missing.

Visa will also ask for the 16-digit number on the card. They say it's vital to have this information kept somewhere separate from the card itself, and that's a key part of their blocking procedures.

Bank staff should also confirm with the cardholder which address the new card will be sent to. It's worth checking this point as criminals sometimes change an address to get a new card sent to them instead.

After cancelling a card

After cancelling, there's not much to do but wait for a new card.

Most banks say they will send out a card to be delivered within 3-5 working days as long as customers are in the UK. If they're abroad, it might take up to 10 working days.

It's worth double-checking how long this process is going to take, especially if you might need cash in the meantime.

Emergency cash: UK

Some providers allow us to use our mobile banking app to get cash out of certain ATMs without needing our debit card.

This is useful if we need cash while we're waiting for our new card, but it's only offered by a few banks including NatWest, RBS, Barclays, HSBC and Santander.

The service works by giving customers a secure code via their mobile banking app that will be accepted at some ATMs (usually the bank's own). They specify on the app how much they want to withdraw up to a maximum amount and the code must be used within a certain timeframe to be valid.

There may also be similar options for online banking customers, so log into an online banking account to check and emergency cash can also be discussed through telephone banking or in-branch.

Customers are asked to visit their nearest branch with some form of identification in order to release some money, and most will make money available over the counter following a few security checks.

Note that the money comes from the affected customer's account and is not an advance from the bank. Therefore, this scheme only works if the customer already has enough funds in their account to cover the request.

Emergency cash: abroad

Banks have their own informal help schemes for lost or stolen cards abroad, so it's worth asking what they have in place when calling to cancel a card.

However, it's also true that using our UK debit and credit cards abroad isn't always the financially sensible option, so it's worth thinking about travel credit cards or prepaid cards and leaving the daily ones at home instead.

Retrieving stolen money

After the initial worry of losing a card or having one stolen, the next concern is getting back any money that was fraudulently taken.

We have a full guide to the compensation available here.

In brief, under the rules laid down in the Payment Services Directive, when fraud was not the cardholder's fault they have the right to a full refund of the amount taken and to get that refund immediately.

However, if the cardholder is at all at fault - for example, they didn't keep their PIN secure - they can be liable for £50 of any disputed transaction. Although it's up to the card provider to prove negligence.

If a fraudulent transaction and/or gross negligence is proven it can result in the cardholder being liable for the full amount of the fraudulent transaction.

There's more on credit card and debit card fraud in our dedicated guide to protecting against it.

Remote fraud

It's worth noting that one of the most common forms of fraud in the UK is 'card-not-present' (CNP) fraud.

Criminals are more likely than ever to be able to access money in an account without having any tangible information about the account and card in question, such as the card itself, an image of it, or details included in bank letters.

That's because fraudsters can more easily access people's account and card details through malware, data hacks and telephone and email scams.

UK Finance say that £452.6m was lost to CNP fraud in 2020, with more than 2.4 million cases recorded.

While this was a decrease of 4% in the value of losses compared to the year before, it marked a 12% increase in cases.

Remote criminal access to accounts is now so common that fraud services admit that traditional advice about protecting mail in shared buildings and the like is becoming obsolete.

In fact, fraudulent remote card purchases account for a considerably higher percentage of total payment fraud losses than lost or stolen cards.

Of all card payment fraud in 2020, 79% was the result of remote fraud compared to 14% resulting from lost or stolen cards.

So, although keeping cards safe is still really important, keeping personal details protected is fast becoming more of a priority.

How to keep your card safe

Thanks to the development of mobile banking and near field communication (NFC) apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay, it's possible we're not keeping as close an eye on our debit and credit cards as we used to.

However, the following rules still apply to help us keep track of our cards:

  1. Use the 'in sight' rule: Keep cards, or at least the bag or jacket they are in, in sight - including in semi-public places like offices.
  2. Don't write down PINs: Don't tell them to friends or family either. If for some unusual reason it's necessary to note down a PIN in a coded or disguised form, never keep it with any cards.
  3. Leave a card at home: Consider leaving a card for a second account in a secure place at home. That way there's a safe source of emergency cash should another card go missing.
  4. Note emergency contact numbers, especially when abroad: Look them up and write them down ahead of time. People with card protection schemes often get stickers with important contact details on. Put them in a separate but convenient place.
  5. Sign cards when you get them: Some places still ask for signatures for goods and services, especially abroad. Plus, some card providers may say cards are invalid unless signed, so don't give someone else the opportunity to sign it.

If we don't use a card very often, it makes sense to either leave it at home or load it into Apple Pay, Google Pay or our mobile payment app of choice.

For an extra layer of security, consider freezing a card if you know it won't be used in the near future - just in case it then gets misplaced or stolen.

Summary: Be card aware

Our credit cards and debit cards are crucial elements of our everyday lives, so it's important we keep them safe when we can.

If we do lose our card or suspect it might have been stolen, we should:

  1. Freeze the card via mobile app or online banking
  2. Cancel the card using mobile, online, telephone or in-branch banking
  3. Ask our bank for emergency cash if necessary
  4. Check our statements and transactions to see if the card was used fraudulently and claim if it was

Ultimately, losses from stolen cards are not the biggest form of card fraud in the UK but losing a card and the stress it entails can be a huge headache.

Just remember that a card being stolen can be a precursor to other scams and be extra vigilant. For example, a fraudster might pretend to be the bank calling about a stolen card and encourage you into handing over personal details.

Read more about telephone scams and how to avoid them in our guide.


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