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Chase will no longer replace lost debit cards at its branches

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A lost or stolen debit card could take as many as 10 days to replace via snail mail. But many customers never have to wait that long.

At tens of thousands of branches across the country, debit and credit cards can be printed and activated. That’s no longer the case at one of the country’s largest financial institutions.

Several years after it began issuing replacement debit cards at certain branches, Chase Bank recently ended the program.

Customers must now wait five to seven business days to receive replacement cards in the mail. For a small fee, you can have your new card delivered within 48 hours, a Chase spokesman says.

What to do if you lose your card

If you need money immediately, withdraw cash at a branch or have a teller print a temporary ATM card. Look for retailers that accept payments through a mobile wallet such as Chase Pay, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. If friends and family offer to cover your purchases, consider paying them back through Chase QuickPay with Zelle, a new person-to-person payment service.

Why Chase cut the cards

Chase said the cost of the program and fraudulent activity were among the reasons for eliminating the service, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The bank increasingly found people using fake IDs to obtain instant-issue debit cards. But those incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all fraudulent activity involving its customers.

The growing number of instantly issued cards

Nearly a quarter of U.S. banks with less than $1 billion in assets and 29 percent of credit unions offer instant card issuing services, according to a report from the Aite Group produced by senior analyst Tiffani Montez.

At the nations largest banks, 39 percent instantly issue cards. PNC, for example, says more than 5,000 debit cards are printed and handed out daily.

The three largest U.S. banks, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo, all offer temporary replacement debit cards in some branches, according to the Journal. The temporary ATM cards Chase issues cannot be used as a debit card in stores.

If you’re preparing to switch banks, consider whether an instant-issue debit card is a feature you’d want. You’ll probably need to ask before you open a savings account whether that bank or credit union offers the instant-issue service.

More institutions are expected to offer instant payment cards in the future. But Montez doesn’t expect all banks to jump on board.

“At some point, banks and credit unions will start to look at how they can digitally issue debit and credit cards,” she says.

A win-win situation?

Instant-issue debit cards benefit both consumers and financial institutions. Consumers don’t have to go days without a permanent debit card. And banks offering debit cards within branches can be safer than mailing them.

“From a security standpoint, you don’t have to worry about them getting lost or stolen in the mail,” says Lawanna Saxon, managing director of marketing for the Signature Bank of Georgia. The boutique-style bank has offered instant-issue debit cards since it opened in 2005.

The service also gives institutions the chance to learn more about their clients’ financial needs. Customers who stop by branches for cards may leave with a better understanding of how their bank can help them, Montez says.

Dangerous debit cards

Using any debit card can leave you susceptible to fraud.

“Even if your card has never been stolen, even if you still have your card in your hand, there’s a possibility that someone is going to get that information from somewhere, somehow,” says John Ulzheimer, credit expert and president of the Ulzheimer Group.

Because debit cards are linked to checking accounts, losing some money to a thief could cause problems. The extent of the damage will depend on how quickly you contact your bank. But it could take days — or months — to learn your account has been compromised.

If you must use a debit card, sign up for alerts. If your bank can’t notify you whenever a debit card transaction occurs, you may need to check your account statements frequently.

“You’re going to have to become almost unreasonably engaged with your transactions on a daily basis,” Ulzheimer says. “I think that’s an unreasonable thing to have to do but unfortunately that’s the reality if you truly want to limit all exposure.”