What to Do if You Find a Lost Credit Card

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If you have a credit card, you can imagine the panicked feeling of losing your card, especially in a public location. So if you're on the other end of the equation and find someone's credit card, it's easy to be sympathetic.

Doing the right thing in a situation where you find a lost wallet or credit card should not be a tough decision. However, you don't want to just leave the credit card there for a thief to pick up.

On the other hand, depending on the laws in your state, trying to be a good Samaritan can put you at risk. In some cases, you could be committing a felony by having someone else's credit card without their permission.

What Could Happen to the Cardholder

Suppose someone else found the lost credit card before you did, used it to make purchases, then tossed it so they wouldn't be caught with it. Legally, a cardholder can be responsible for up to $50 of purchases made on a lost credit card, depending on how long it takes them to report missing it.

On the other hand, if a cardholder has lost their debit card (which is connected to their checking account), they could lose all the money taken from their account. This may happen if it takes the cardholder some time to notice that the card is missing and report it to the bank.

Finding the Lost Credit Card's Owner

Your first instinct might be to track down the owner of the credit card. It sounds like the noble thing to do, and it's probably what most of us would prefer if we'd lost a credit card.

The internet and social media make it easier than ever to find people. You might consider doing a Google or Facebook search to locate the credit card owner, but there's a huge risk of giving the card to the wrong person. Besides a name, credit cards don't contain any other identifying information you can use to verify that you're giving the card to the right cardholder.

Unless the cardholder has a very rare name, it may not be easy to be sure you've found the correct person. And do you want to take on the responsibility of verifying that you're giving the card to the rightful cardholder?

Turn It in at the Location Where You Found the Card

There's a chance the person who lost their credit card will try to retrace their steps to figure out where the card was lost. If you found the credit card at a reputable location, it may be safe to turn in the card to a manager or the customer service desk.

Be aware that the person you give the card to might not be as honest as you—they could use the card fraudulently or sell the credit card information on the internet.

If you can't find anyone to give the card to at the retail location, or if you don't think it's safe to hand over someone else's credit card, consider a few other options.

Take It to a Bank Branch

If a bank that's local to you issued the credit card, consider taking the credit card to a bank branch. A banker will be able to locate the cardholder using the account information and will contact them to let them know their card was found.

Call the Credit Card Issuer

If the card was issued by a major credit card issuer or a bank that doesn't have branches in your area, use the number on the back of the credit card to contact the card's customer service department. Follow the prompts to speak directly to a customer service representative.

Don't try to access the account by entering the credit card information. The system will likely ask you for some personal information that you will not know, such as a billing zip code, the PIN, or the last four digits of the primary cardholder's Social Security number. Once you speak with a customer service representative, let them know you've found someone's credit card.

The credit card issuer will be able to give you specific instructions on what to do with the card. Likely, the card issuer will instruct you to shred the credit card and discard the pieces. They'll be able to alert the cardholder and close the credit card account to prevent any unauthorized purchases from being made on it.

The Bottom Line

You should not play "finders-keepers" with someone's lost credit card. You'd be committing a crime, and if caught, you could face jail time and have to pay a fine—plus be required to repay the money for any purchases you made.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there a reward for handing in a lost bank card?

There's not a specific reward for handing in a lost bank card. However, if you do it carefully, you can have peace of mind knowing you helped someone avoid potential fraud or identity theft.

What information is stored in a credit card?

Credit cards store the information required to complete a transaction, including the card number, expiration date, CVV code, and the card owner's name. Newer card technologies, like EMV chips, protect this data better than older magnetic strips.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Federal Trade Commission. "Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards."

  2. Visa. "EMV Chip."

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