Just when I said nothing much happens with my credit card, somebody goes ahead and steals my credit card! But perhaps “stealing” is the wrong word to use in this situation, so let me clarify.
The last place I used my credit card was at the local Kelly Moore paint store. I remember taking it out, but not taking it back before I left. I remember the clerk who swiped my card for $43 for a gallon of hybrid paint. Yet, when I called back a day later to see if they had my card, the clerk said “no.”
Then I went back to the store the next day to ask the employees face-to-face if anybody saw my card. I can usually tell if someone is lying if I look them straight in the eye and ask them an important question. The manager on duty, whom I’ve seen the last four out of five times I’ve gone, hesitated and blurted out “nobody has told me about a missing credit card” before I finished asking my question. It was as if he already knew what I was going to ask. Hmmm.
I gave him my contact details in case anybody finds anything, and told him that someone took the card and went across the Bay to a Berkeley gas station and charged it up. The only way you can charge a credit card for gas is if you put in the credit card holder’s zip code. Given my zip code is the same zip code as the paint store, and the paint store was the last place I used the card, chances are high that one of the employees decided to keep my card and use it without my permission. (Thought: Perhaps change your credit card billing address to your work address so the zip codes are different)
It really stinks feeling suspicious of others. Everybody but one person in the store is innocent. Unfortunately, I no longer feel comfortable going there anymore.
When I was paying at the register one visit, one of the clerks asked me about the Frog Tape I was buying. “Hey, you trying to paint a straight line, or something?”
“Yeah, the line where the wall meets the trim,” I responded.
“I got a secret on how to paint a straight line real easy,” he said. “But it’ll cost you 5 bucks.”
I laughed, thinking he was joking as I admired his tattoos of serpent heads. I waited for him to tell me the secret, but he never did! WTF. I can appreciate a good hustle, but trying to personally extract another $5 after I’ve already spent $600 at the store is low quality.
FIVE STEPS TO TAKE IF YOUR CREDIT CARD IS STOLEN
1) Don’t panic. If your entire wallet is stolen (one of the worst feelings ever), then panic! It’s really the process of having to get a new driver’s license and any other government-issued card that is the real PITA. But if only a credit card is stolen, no problem! I love credit cards because practically every single credit card has fraud protection.
2) Give your credit card company a ring. Simply give your credit card company a call, tell them your card was stolen, and they will reverse the fraudulent charges, cancel your card, and issue you a new one in the mail. If you’ve got any history with the credit card, you can call for rush delivery, free of charge. Otherwise, it generally takes 5-7 business days to get a new card. Use this time to practice consumption restraint and pay for only things in cash. It’ll be good for you.
3) Ask your credit card company for info and concessions. You might as well use the time when canceling to ask them whether they can lower your interest rate, raise your credit limit (if necessary), and remind you of their insurance program and other perks the credit card offers. When a customer loses a credit card, credit card companies know this is a sensitive and critical time for them to show good service. It’s also a critical time when customers tend to leave. Be assertive in your demands for concessions.
4) Shop around for another credit card. If you are not completely satisfied with the rate and services your existing credit card provides, shop around for a different credit card. If your credit card company is unhelpful during your loss and won’t credit back any charges, then definitely say goodbye. There are literally thousands of credit cards to choose from. A rewards credit card or a cash back credit card is definitely a must. Given I travel about 10 weeks a year, a travel credit card is a no brainer for me.
5) Contact all vendors who use your card for auto-pay. List out vendors where they have your credit card on file. If you can’t remember, peruse through your e-mails to jog your memory. I’m lucky in that I only have my Netflix account, my insurance account, and my GoDaddy account where I have my URL to change. Some people I know have 10+ accounts on autopay, which is smart until you have to change your card. A good way to hedge against such an event is to spread around two or more cards around your vendors.
THE UPSIDE OF CHANGING YOUR CREDIT CARD
Every time I go through this process of changing my credit card I look on the bright side of the hassle. A new credit card on file means that anybody close to hacking your credit card info has to start all over. We’re essentially making it difficult for other people to steal from us online.
It would be nice if credit card companies automatically changed our credit card numbers once a year and vendors automatically updated our accounts with the new numbers. But, the next best thing is to do it ourselves. We should never fear losing money with a credit card given the safeguards they have in place.
Photo credit: Rennet Stowe, Creative Commons
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Updated for 2015