What to Do If Your Credit Card is Stolen while on Vacation

  • How to protect yourself when your credit cards are stolen while you travel

One of the most frustrating things a person can deal with while traveling is to lose their credit card.  When I was traveling both in France and in Italy I had my Visa card number stolen.  I didn't panic when I found out but I did learn what to do if my Credit Card Stolen While on Vacation. I now know how to deal with this type of credit card fraud.   Within 2 days, both times, I had new cards sent to me and it was just a minor "hiccup" on an otherwise amazing trip.

Credit Card Stolen While on Vacation

Funny enough, I was on Facebook recently and see an FB post, "Just lost my credit card while enjoying Oktoberfest in Munich. 20 Euro left to last me 10 more days. Wish me luck!". At first I was taken aback, but then I remembered this is when you find yourself with €20 in your pocket in a foreign country where you don't speak the language and are suddenly semi-homeless you can expect some rough times ahead.

As soon as I saw the post, I went into travel expert mode. Here are the tips I gave him to help him avoid credit card fraud, get his cards back, and get cash in his pocket so he could actually eat dinner:


    1.   Call the 1800 number for your credit card immediately.
      1. Domestic Phone Numbers
        American Express Toll Free 1-800 Numbers 1-800-528-4800
        Discover Card 1-800 Toll Free Numbers 1-800-347-2683
        MasterCard 1-800 Toll Free Numbers 1-800-627-8372
        Visa 1-800 Toll Free Numbers 1-(800) 847-2911
      2. International Collect Phone Numbers
        American Express International Collect 1-623-492-8468
        Discover Card International Collect 1-801-902-3100
        MasterCard International Collect 1-636-722-7111
        Visa International Collect 1-614-248-2161

      Tell the agent you lost your card while traveling.   They will immediately cancel the card and ask you about recent charges.  If you do not recognize a charge have them mark as not valid.   Most card companies will investigate the fraud and not charge you a fee.

    2. Have a card overnighted to your location or to a local UPS/DHL/FEDEX center.
      This is important so that by the next business day you will have a working credit card in hand.   If you are staying in an Airbnb, Hotel or Hostel most hosts will allow you to have your card shipped directly to where you are staying.    In my experience 99% of hosts will have no issue with that because of the circumstances, but if this is not possible then have it sent to one of the centers for pickup.
      One issue that may arise is that the event happened on a Friday or next day is a holiday.  If that is case you will usually have till next business day.  In most European countries package delivery is good from Monday - Saturday.  Outside of 1st World assume that delivery could take up to 7-days more.  So be prepared.

  1. Call your bank if it is an ATM card.
    This is time sensitive because unlike credit cards your ATM card can be charged up to 100% of your account balance.  So if you have $5,000 in the bank, a thief can then take the stolen card and charge $5,000 at various locations and you will not be protected by bank.  This is your cash at risk.He is a list of common banks which you should contact immediately:
    Bank of America
    Wells Fargo
    Capital One credit cards, debit cards
    PNC Bank
    U.S. Bank
    Citibank credit cards, debit cards
  2. If you were robbed/mugged contact local police station.  They maybe able to help you get your good back if they stole other items (cellphones, backpacks, luggage, wallet, camera, etc).  Don't get your hopes up too much but I have seen it happen before.  The cops knew who the crooks where, went to them brought back the tourist stuff within 3-hours. Do this immediately. If you are on a cruise or tour and you don't do this, you won't be able to take action once you're out of your current location.
  3. Contact your travel insurance.  They maybe able to help you with lodging, give you a cash advance on your claim and even help evac you back to the States if you are in some danger.
  4. When you return home monitor your credit on a monthly basis.  There are many free credit card reporting services out there, subscribe to them.    The reason you need to do this is that sometime crime syndicates (yeah I know, sounds like Goodfellas) will steal cards and clone them.   This is especially true if they were able to get other information from you such as your drivers license, Passport or Passport Card.
    Ninja TIP:  Rarely travel with Passport on your person unless mandated by the country (looking at you Colombia).  If you do and are robbed, you will have more to worry about than just a few dollars missing from your credit card. As you monitor your credit card look for any anomalies.  If something pops up contact the Credit Card company and have your card number changed again.

Okay, now that we have the cards cancelled and you are protected from credit card fraud, you need some cash to hold you over until your cards arrive.   Logically, if you have a backup card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can take a cash advance from the card.  Be prepared for them to take a 25% APR on that withdrawal.   So make sure to pay the card off as soon as you return home because 25% interest adds up quickly.

If you do not have any other cards (*tsk tsk* you should have backup cards or at least your travel companion should) then you can get money wired to you.   Contact a friend or a family member via Facebook/email/sms/whatsapp/wechat/whatever.  Tell them what happened and have them send you enough money to hold you over until your cards arrive.  Don't be conservative in your request.   Foreign travel is expensive and you should over estimate the amount you will need to eat, pay for transport, cost of housing and maybe a bit of sightseeing fun.

The money-wiring services I would use are as follows:

When you are abroad just check the closest one to you and go with that.   My go to one is Western Union, but ultimately it depends on which country you are in.  Be prepared though to lose 10 cents or more on the dollar when using these services if you only transfer a small amount.  This means you need to plan accordingly.

The final last ditch effort (other then beg on the street) you can do if you cannot get the funds. If you are in a dire situation, you need to visit the US Embassy (or the Embassy of your country).   They will help get you in touch with agencies that help Americans abroad caught in these sort of situations.  It won't be pleasant, (lots of bureaucracy) but if you need to eat they will help you.

I hope these tips will help you survive a credit card lost or credit card fraud event while traveling.   Keep in mind,  you are not alone, this has happened to me and I survived.   The frustration and helplessness can be multiplied 10x when you are abroad, but just know that if you follow my tips you won't have to suffer as much.

Remember my cousin who lost his cards backpacking.  I posted these tips to his Facebook immediately after he requested help.    He didn't use any of them.  He ended up just begging at Oktoberfest.  Apparently large quantities of beers bring out the altruism in people.  He raised enough to finish his trip with a little left over in the end.    Darn Space Cadet.

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Blanca Valbuena

I am the co-founder of FriendsEat and Socialdraft. I've got an unhealthy obsession with Burgundian Chardonnay, ASOIAF, and travel.

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