Debit Card Stolen, How Much Are You Liable For?

Federal law limits your liability to $50 if your credit card is stolen, but what about your debit card? It all depends on how fast you report it; the sooner the better, and if you wait too long, you’re totally screwed.

Date Reported | Your Liability

Before it’s used | none
Within 2 days | $50
After 2 days but before 60 | $500
After 60 | Everything

Your card issuer may have more generous limits, but don’t bet on it. File a report with your bank the instant you discover your card left your possession, or if you spot charges on your statement you didn’t make. — BEN POPKEN

[via Consumer Action Handbook]
(Photo: Sam Wilkinson)

UPDATE: Bryan writes:

    “You’ve got it slightly wrong…Unlimited liability begins 60 days after the date of mailing of a written statement. All of the other liability is measured not from the date reported but from the date of discovery of the theft or unauthorized use. For instance, if you discover and report the theft before any unauthorized usage, then you have no liability. If you discover the theft, but don’t report it at the end of the second day after discovery, you are liable for up to $50. If you discover the theft but wait past the third day to report it, you are liable to up to $500 worth of debt. Whether or not you discover the theft, if you don’t bother to read your statement and report the theft within 60 days of it’s mailing, then you’re liable for everything. Check out the FTC for a fairly clear reading of the law…”


Edit Your Comment

  1. nweaver says:

    Also, for the love of Pete, have an ATM-ONLY debit card, and only use it at ATMs.

    Posession is 9/10ths of the law, and having to get your money back from the bank is a lot more annoying (and potentially disruptive) then having some thief max out your credit card.

  2. thrillhouse says:

    I’ve had plenty of fraudulent charges on my debit card and never been liable for a dime. Same day, 2 days, 4 days… And that was BofA.

    Where did this info come from, Ben? There’s no link other than for the photo.

    I would recommend reviewing Visa and MC’s own liability policies (ZERO in Visa’s case), as well as that with your bank.

  3. dieman says:

    USAA still has a zero liability policy last I checked. Call them up and they fax you some documents to notarize and send back. Last time I had to do this I had my money back within 5 hours or so. (before the notarized documents made it to them, no less)

    Some idiot used my debit card to pay their cable bill! Seriously!

  4. timmus says:

    Just curious where these numbers come from. I want to pass it along but there’s no source.

  5. kidgenius says:

    If you have a Visa/MC logo on your Debit card, then your liabilities are the same for it as they would be for your credit card.

  6. Saeculorum says:

    The scary thing about debit cards isn’t the liability, it’s the fact that until you get your money back, it’s gone out of your checking account.

    Consider the following scenario: someone steals your debit card, charges up all the money that’s in your account. You dutifully contact your bank, who says that they’ll redeposit the money within 2-3 business days. Meanwhile, your mortgage check hits the bank account and bounces.

  7. Shutterman says:

    I think when it comes to any credit or debit card, having one from a trustworthy company like USAA or a small local bank is the key to zero liability policies.

  8. Gamby says:

    Monitoring services are the best for this type of situation. Alot of banks and even insurance companies are offering insurance against these types of things because even if you dont have to pay for the charges it can still cost alot of money to repair what is done. Check out your insurance for protection or even with your bank. Also there are alot of companies that are starting to offer credit monitoring along with other services to help monitor your identity. is one that offers credit monitoring and also monitors many other things such as the internet and public records.

  9. itchy feet says:

    @Saeculorum: Equally scary: When you report your card stolen – even if nothing’s been taken – they freeze your account.

    My purse was stolen and I discovered the problem within the hour. I called the bank and was thrilled to know the guy had only gotten about $45 bucks off it (he used it at a car wash???).

    But they had to freeze the accounts (checking plus savings, because they were both tied to the card) to protect the account.

    Which makes it tough to get new locks for your house, necessary ecause, having stolen your purse, Mr. McCreepy also has your house keys and your address off your driver’s license.

    Oh, and your credit cards, which are your only other form of ready cash.

    That was a very long couple of days.

  10. swvaboy says:

    I recently received a letter from my bank that debit cards that carry the Visa or Mastercard logo now carry the same protection as their credit cards.

    I am pretty sure it is a new thing and not just with my bank (New Peoples Bank). I’ll try to find the letter.