Who Is Resposible for Stolen Credit Card Charges?

Act Quickly, or You'll End up With the Bill

Credit card being swiped through payment machine.
Photo: Martin Barraud / Getty Images

Having a credit card stolen is one of the most dreaded things that can happen, but it's not a time to panic. It's a time for swift action. You should report a stolen credit card to your credit issuer as quickly as possible. The sooner you report your stolen credit card, the less likely it is that you'll be responsible for any fraudulent charges.

Your Responsibility for Charges on a Stolen Credit Card

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is the federal law that defines your rights when your credit card is stolen. Under the FCBA, you won't be held liable for any charges if you report the theft before any fraudulent charges are made on your account. However, you could be liable for up to $50 if the thief uses your stolen credit card before you report the theft. That is why it's crucial to report your stolen credit as soon as you notice it's missing.

If the fraudulent charges are made using only your credit card number and not your physical credit card, you won't be liable for any of the fraudulent charges. The credit card issuer may ask for the security code on the back of your credit card to verify that the credit card is still in your possession. Be careful that you're not falling for a phishing scam whereby a criminal tricks you into giving out your security code by saying that fraud has been detected on your account. Only give out sensitive information on calls that you personally initiate to a number that you've confirmed is your credit card issuer's.


If your account number has been compromised, your credit card issuer can send a new card with an updated account number or security code to prevent future unauthorized charges.

Keep in mind that the rules for stolen debit card charges are different. If you report the missing debit card within two days, your maximum liability will be $50. However, after two days, you could be liable for up to $500. And if 60 days go by before you report the card missing, you could be on the hook for everything.

How to Detect Fraudulent Charges

Technology makes it easier than ever to detect stolen credit card charges. Check your account frequently, over the phone or online, to make sure that no unauthorized charges have been made. Check your account even if you don't have a stolen credit card, since thieves can make charges with just your credit card number. To save time from checking too often, and to receive information in real time, many services allow you to turn push notifications by email or by text messages when transactions occur in your account. 

Reporting a Stolen Credit Card

If you notice unauthorized charges made on your stolen credit card or stolen credit card number, contact your credit card issuer quickly. Let them know whether your physical credit card has been stolen, and provide the details of the fraudulent charges.

Follow up by sending a letter including the date the credit card was stolen, the date you reported the theft, and any unauthorized charges that have been made on your account. Make sure you send this letter via certified mail, with return receipt requested, to the issuer's address for correspondence. This address is often different from the payment-processing address.

Keep a copy of your credit card number and the phone number for the company's customer service department. Store it in a safe place where you can access it quickly to contact the company if your credit card is stolen.

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  1. Federal Trade Commission. "Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards."

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