FAIRMONT - Losing a debit or credit card brings on panic, especially if you don't know what to do after you discover it's gone.
"The first thing is contact the bank and let them know you misplaced it," said Lynn Petrowiak, customer service supervisor at Wells Federal Bank in Fairmont.
Knowing when you last used it is helpful, she added.
"That's the first thing we check is to see if it's been used anywhere since then," Petrowiak said.
Most people assume the card must then be canceled, but there is another option.
Lowering the limits should be the first thing, Petrowiak said. Wells Federal can lower the limit to $1, and enforce restrictions of no withdrawals, rendering the card temporarily unusable.
"We use it often because it happens so often," she said.
Lowering the limits gives the customer a chance to look for the card, she said, if you misplaced it or your teen borrowed it without mentioning it to you. Restricting withdrawals means a stranger can't get to your money, but neither can you for as long as the limits are lowered. It's an inconvenience, but it protects your account and the card.
If the card is found, the customer can then call the bank and get the limits and restrictions removed and use the card again. There's no charge to the customer for any of it.
Canceling the card is more complicated, Petrowiak noted.
She recommends canceling the card immediately only if you are sure you can't locate it, such as if it was lost on vacation and you can't get back to the location. You can lower the limits and still cancel the card later if it doesn't show up in a few days.
You want to be sure because once the card is canceled, it's canceled, even if you find it again.
"If it's been canceled, we cannot open the card back up," Petrowiak said.
Instead, a new card must be ordered. Wells Federal charges $5 for a replacement card, but it's the wait that might shake up folks.
"For a new card to come, it does take two weeks," Petrowiak said. "You'll be without a card until it's replaced."
There are some things you can do right now to reduce the chance of anyone using your card if it is lost, Petrowiak said.
Don't write your PIN on the card or keep it near the card, Petrowiak said.
"You just gave them everything they need [to access your account]," she said.
Also, don't let family members or friends borrow it for any reason.
"The card should be used by the person it's issued to only," she said. "If you just hand it to someone, you could be liable for the charges."
"Always keep a copy of the credit and debit cards at home," she added.
This will give you the 800 number and the card number so you don't have to rely on your memory. Keep the number for the bank with you at all times so you can call immediately. Keep the phone number of the credit card company or issuer of the debit card in your purse or wallet so you can call on the weekends.
It's important to notify the bank or credit card company immediately, so you are not libel for any of the charges someone else may make on your card.
"It's up to each bank how they handle the fraud," Petrowiak said.