While your debit card may look like a credit card, the potential losses resulting from debit card fraud can actually be more severe. Here are some tips from the FTC on how to protect your debit card, including:

  • Don’t disclose your account number over the phone unless you initiate the call.
  • Don’t sign a blank charge or debit slip.
  • Cut up old cards — cutting through the account number — before you throw them away.
  • Don’t carry your PIN in your wallet, purse, or pocket — or write it on your ATM or debit card.
  • Commit it to memory.
  • Never write your PIN on the outside of a deposit slip, an envelope, or other papers that could be lost or looked at.
  • Carefully check your ATM or debit card transactions; the funds for this item will be quickly transferred out of your checking or other deposit account.
  • Cut up old cards — cutting through the account number — before you throw them away.
  • Periodically check your account activity, especially if you bank online.

If your card is lost or stolen, you must act fast

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that acting fast limits your liability for charges you didn’t authorize. If you notify your bank that your debit card (or ATM card) is lost or stolen before someone uses it, you are not responsible for any unauthorized transactions. BUT… if someone uses your card before you report it, your liability increases quickly.

The longer you wait, the bigger the problem

Here are the figures:

  • You are only liable for $50 if you report the loss or theft of your card within two business days.
  • You are liable for up to $500 if you report the loss or theft more than two business days later, but less than 60 calendar days after you receive your statement.
  • You are liable for all the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, and even for money in accounts linked to your card if they are accessed by someone else 60 days after your last statement is sent to you.

There is one exception. If someone makes unauthorized transactions with only your debit card number, and your card is not lost, you are not liable for those transactions if you report them within 60 days of receiving your statement.

Bottom line? Act fast if your debit card gets into the wrong hands. Save yourself from losing even more than the funds in your checking account.

Frequently asked questions

What more do you need to know to protect your debit card? Check out these Frequently Asked Questions from the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions for more tips.

Losing or having your debit card stolen is a serious matter – be aware of what you need to do in the event it happens. Remember timing is everything!