Editor’s note: Emily is currently on her way home from Europe. While she’s been gone, some friends have graciously volunteered to step in for her and guest post. This is the last guest post before her return.
Today’s post is by David Weliver, the founder and editor of Money Under 30, a personal finance blog for the young and ambitious. David’s writing has appeared in national magazines including SmartMoney and Inc. He currently works as an online editor in Marblehead, Mass.
Just before nodding off last night, I watched a few minutes of a “Sopranos” rerun: Tony was traveling when he discovers he has someone else’s wallet and not his own. Without ID or credit cards, Tony couldn’t get a plane home, reserve a hotel or even buy dinner. I missed the ending, but the show made me think: If my wallet disappeared, what would my plan be?
If your credit or debit cards are ever lost or stolen, it’s imperative you contact each of your card issuers immediately to report the event. You cannot be held liable for more than $50 of fraudulent charges to your credit cards, but you will need to prove that each illegitimate purchase wasn’t made by you — a process that can take weeks or months before your accounts are cleared.
Phone numbers are printed on the backs of your cards, but that’s not so helpful once they go missing. Write the phone numbers and card account numbers (but for security, not your expiration dates) on a piece of paper, then keep that info in a safe place away from your wallet.
An emergency contact list of your card companies will take care of preventing further fraudulent charges to your account, but it doesn’t solve another pressing concern if your wallet goes missing: What will you do for money?
Near home? Try visiting your local bank to get cash until replacement cards arrive in the mail (assuming your ID wasn’t stolen, too). If you have multiple credit cards, it’s also a good idea never to carry them all at once. Take only the cards you need, so if they are stolen, you’ll have valid cards waiting for you at home.
If you’re traveling — or you lost your ID — dealing with the theft of your credit cards gets trickier, but it’s still not the end of the world.
Some credit cards, including many Visa cards, offer 24-hour card replacement and emergency cash advances that can be arranged over the phone. While convenient, steep charges, including cash advance finance charges and overnight shipping charges, may apply.
Another option is to have a friend or family member available to help if you find yourself wallet-less and away. Somebody close to you may be able to pay for a hotel for you over the phone, FedEx you an alternative ID or even wire you emergency cash.
Discovering your credit cards have been lost or stolen is never fun, but with a little preparation, it doesn’t have to ruin your day. Take precautions to be able to cancel your cards quickly and have an alternative source of funds within reach and you can put your mind at ease.
See related: Wallet protection toolkit, Worksheet: What to do if you lost your wallet, Wallet safety checklist