Published in: Credit Cards | Oct. 28, 2019

What to Do if Your Credit Card Is Stolen While Traveling

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A lost or stolen credit card while traveling could put you in a tight spot. Here are some tips to survive the rest of your trip. 

When you're away from home on vacation, chances are good you'll rely on your credit card to pay for many of the things that you'll need, from hotel rooms to rental cars to food at your destination. Unfortunately, that means if your credit card is stolen, it can have a big impact on your trip.

A distraught woman in an airport sitting next to her suitcase.

Image source: Getty Images

If your card is stolen while you're traveling, there are a few key steps you'll need to take in order to both protect yourself from liability for unauthorized charges and to make sure you have the ability to continue spending. These include:

  • Reporting the theft to your credit card issuer 
  • Exploring options for getting a replacement credit card
  • Looking for other ways to continue spending, such as using a virtual card number or mobile payment app

Report the theft to your credit card issuer 

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you from liability for unauthorized charges made on your card as long as you report your card lost or stolen before any charges are made. Most credit card companies also have policies in place so you aren't responsible for any of the costs associated with fraudulent charges -- but you still have an obligation to report it. So call the card issuer ASAP to ensure you're protected from liability. 

Reporting the card stolen also allows the card issuer to shut it down right away, which reduces the chances of unauthorized charges being made in the first place. This will ensure you don't have to worry about getting any unauthorized charges removed from your credit card statement. 

If your card has been stolen, you may not have the telephone number to contact your card issuer. As time is of the essence, it can be helpful to keep digital copies of these phone numbers and your card information somewhere so you can access them quickly. You can also look up your card issuer's fraud alert number on the internet -- and some card issuers even have special numbers to call if you are out of the country. 

Explore options for getting a replacement card

Different card companies have different rules regarding when and how they will send a replacement card after a card has been stolen. Your card's customer service professionals can explain your options.

In some cases, you will only be able to get a card sent to your home address. This means you'd be out of luck on accessing the card for the remainder of your trip. Other card issuers will be willing to overnight the card to you at your current location. Overnighting of a new card is typically possible only if you are traveling within the U.S., although your card issuer may have some fast shipment options available if you're abroad. 

There could be a fee for expedited shipment of a new card, but some card issuers waive this fee in cases where your card has been stolen or where fraudulent charges have occurred. You'll need to ask about the policy -- and be prepared to pay if necessary. 

If you're looking for a good travel card to take with you on your trip, you may want to check this policy out before you go so you can specifically choose a card that you could have sent to you for free in the event of a theft. 

Look for other ways to continue spending

If your card issuer will not mail you a credit card to your destination, or if there will be a delay until you receive the card, you'll have to figure out how to spend in the meantime.

Ideally, you should take more than one card with you when traveling -- especially if you go abroad -- and you should have your companion carry one of your cards or leave one in your hotel room. That way the theft of a purse or wallet won't leave you with no access to credit. Sometimes, however, you don't think of this until it's too late and you end up without cash or access to credit.

If this happens, you may still have a few options. If you have access to a phone with Apple Pay or Samsung pay, your card issuer may be able to hook you up with a new card number you can instantly add to your digital wallet so you can continue spending. 

Your card issuer may also be willing to generate a virtual card number you can use temporarily. While you can't use a virtual card in store, you could link it to a ride share account so you can get around, book tours online, and order and pay for food online until you're able to gain access to a card you can use. 

A stolen credit card while abroad can put an end to the fun

Unfortunately, a stolen credit card while away could put a fast end to your fun. Not only do you need to take time out of your vacation to handle the logistical issues of reporting the theft and gaining access to a card you can use, it can also leave you unable to pay for hotels and food. 

The best way to minimize the damage is to take preventative action beforehand -- which may include finding a travel card that offers solutions in just such an emergency.

You should also have your card's customer service telephone number and your account number stored somewhere on your person to make reporting a stolen card easy. And bring a secondary form of payment with you that you keep somewhere safe. 

If you prepare in advance, a stolen credit card will be a hassle but it won't be a disaster that ruins the rest of your trip. 

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