Everyone knows that sinking feeling of reaching for your wallet and realizing it isn’t where you left it.
Maybe you simply misplaced the wallet, or perhaps it was stolen. Either way, you need to act fast to make sure that losing your wallet doesn’t turn into something worse.
The next time your wallet goes missing, try not to panic. Keep a cool head and take these 13 actions as quickly as you can. Fast action might help you lower your financial stress at a difficult time.
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Freeze your credit card account
First things first: Make sure that if anyone finds your credit card, they can’t immediately start racking up debt. Knowing that no one can use your cards or accounts should eliminate some money stress from the situation.
These days, most bank apps and websites let you quickly freeze your account on your own. So, pull up the app or website and quickly prevent fraudsters from using the card.
Pause your debit card
A stolen debit card can be a bigger threat than a credit card that has gone missing. Thieves who steal your debit card can potentially access the cash in your checking account.
So, if you have a debit card that is missing, quickly lock that down as well. If your wallet really is gone forever, you can always order a new card.
And if you get lucky and find your wallet, you can unlock the card and restore your access to cash.
Look high and low
Now that you’ve effectively frozen your assets, you’ve bought yourself some time. Start looking for your wallet.
Think back about all the places you had been earlier in the day before you realized the wallet was missing. If possible, physically retrace your steps. If you’re lucky, the wallet will turn up while you are doing so.
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Notify card issuers about what happened
Didn’t find your wallet while reviewing your earlier route? Alas, it’s probably time to reach out to your credit card and debit card issuers and let them know what happened.
This is a crucial step. By promptly reporting that your cards may have been compromised, you limit the amount of fraudulent charges for which you can be held responsible.
With fraudulent credit card transactions, you can only be held liable for up to $50. With a debit card, your liability can grow to $500 if you wait more than two business days to notify the card issuer.
Request new debit and credit cards
Once you’re reasonably certain your debit and credit cards aren’t going to magically resurface, request new cards using the card issuer’s app or website.
Alternatively, you can call the credit card company directly to request new cards and report your existing cards as stolen.
Visit your state DMV’s website
Next, it’s time to replace your driver’s license. Since it’s illegal to drive without a license, reporting your license as lost and getting a temporary form of ID should be a top priority.
Requesting a new driver’s license may cost a small fee, but paying the fee online can be difficult if you do not have a card to make the payment. If you cannot make the payment online, visit your DMV office in person.
Print your temporary driver’s license
If you are able to get a new license and pay for it online, your state might email you a temporary license. If so, print it out and keep it in your car while you wait for the new license to arrive.
File a police report
Filing a police report regarding your missing wallet creates a paper trail that might make it easier for you to dispute fraudulent charges and pursue further action if your identity is stolen.
Since you aren’t dealing with a life-threatening emergency, don’t call 911. Instead, look up your police department’s non-emergency line or check the department’s website to find out if you can file a written complaint online.
Find a way to access cash while you wait for your cards
Today, many people are used to using credit and debit cards for nearly all their spending. If your cards are lost, you will need to find a way to access cash so you will have some spending money.
So, visit your bank’s nearest branch or speak with a customer service representative to find out what you need to do to access your cash.
You might have to withdraw some cash to tide you over. It’s also possible that you will be able to write personal checks for some expenses. You can also ask if your bank offers a temporary card service.
Consider linking autopayments to your bank account
You can still pay bills without a debit or credit card number if you link automatic payments directly to your bank account. All you need is your account number and routing number, which you can find at the bottom of your personal checks.
Generally speaking, linking payments to a bank account rather than a card is secure, but there are some risks. Make sure you follow your bank’s security recommendations to protect the account information.
Put a fraud notification on your credit report
Identity theft is always a risk if you lose a form of ID like a driver’s license or a credit or debit card.
Get in touch with one of the three major credit-reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — and set up a 90-day fraud alert. When you place the alert with one of the agencies, it will notify the other two.
The alert ensures that no one can take out a loan, apply for credit cards, or set up a new bank account while using your name unless the credit bureau double-checks your identity first.
Change your passwords
If someone has stolen your identity, it’s more important than ever to ensure no one but you can get access to your email and bank account. If you haven’t already done so, enable two-factor identification for any online accounts.
It’s also wise to consider changing your passwords. There is no such thing as being too cautious when it comes to protecting your identity.
Replace other items from your lost wallet
A driver’s license, debit cards, and credit cards are probably the most important things you keep in your wallet, but they’re likely not the only things.
So, write out a list of everything in your wallet — such as library cards and gym memberships — and start replacing them one by one.
Buy a replacement wallet
Finally, you will need to buy a new wallet once you’ve completed the other items on this list.
It’s up to you whether you splurge a bit on a new wallet. Some folks find that buying a fancy new wallet they love will help them cope with the trauma of losing crucial items.
Others will decide to keep it simple and buy something affordable. That way, they will keep their costs down and might feel like they have quickly gotten their financial life back on track.
Following these steps can increase the odds that a lost wallet will remain an inconvenience instead of turning into a major headache. The last thing you want in this situation is more financial stress.
The key is to act fast and boost your bank account by protecting your savings and shielding yourself against the threat of identity theft. These tips should put you well on your way to overcoming this unfortunate situation.