Losing your credit card can be incredibly upsetting. At first, you might not know whether you’ve simply misplaced it or if it’s fallen into the hands of a stranger who has bad intentions. When the card has actually been stolen, anxiety quickly takes the place of uncertainty.

Whatever the case, you should take certain steps immediately when you realize that you’ve lost track of your card. We’ll walk you through the process and help you understand the possible after-effects.

Do these things first when you think your card is lost

1. Report it to the card issuer

Contact the issuer as soon as possible. Most issuers suggest reporting within two days of losing the card, but don’t hesitate to raise the alarm sooner.

You can find the number to call on your credit card statement or on the card issuer’s website. You might also be able to report the loss on the website, depending on the issuer. Be prepared to tell your card issuer when and where you last saw your card and what your most recent purchases were.

2. Ask about cardholder protections

A number of card issuers have rapid-response features designed to prevent unauthorized purchases. Citi, for example, offers a service called Quick Lock that will allow you to temporarily block new purchases and some ATM transactions until the card is found. In most instances, however, the card issuer will cancel the lost card and issue you a new one.

3. Check your credit report

Take a look at the report to see if any suspicious activity has shown up. If you’re using a credit report tool, you’ll be notified of this kind of activity through email. If you suspect that your card may have been compromised, you can place a fraud alert on your credit report as an extra layer of protection.

What about credit cards that might be lost in the mail?

If you’ve opened or renewed a card that has yet to show up in the mail, you’ll also want to contact your card issuer. However, the conversation will be a bit different. Check with the card issuer to see when and where they sent the card. If the card was sent to your address and hasn’t arrived yet, asked the issuer to cancel the card and send you a new one. If it was sent to an old address by mistake, make sure the issuer has your current address.

Follow-up steps for lost or stolen credit cards

  • Follow up on your call or chat with your credit card company with a written communication reporting the loss of your card.
  • Also give a call to one of the credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) to inform them about your lost card. You only need to contact one, as information is shared between the three bureaus.
  • Once you’ve been issued your new card, make sure that any recurring payments you have on the old card are switched to the new account. Be prepared to cover any pending charges that were on the card before the loss was reported.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit card statements in the next few months to make sure that no fraudulent charges show up, and keep an eye on your credit report. If you get hit with fraudulent charges, be prepared to dispute them. Most card issuers have a $0 fraud liability policy, so you shouldn’t be responsible for any fraudulent charges that are appropriately reported.

What happens to your credit and rewards points?

The process of reporting a lost card and being issued a new one shouldn’t have any effect on your credit report, unless your card issuer reports the new card as a new account with a new open date. This will decrease the length of your credit history, which makes up 15% of your FICO Score.

Another effect to be aware of is the possible loss of rewards points. If the card you lost was an airline or hotel card, your points should be fine as they are managed by the airline or hotel and not your card issuer. However, rewards points that are managed by the card issuer are different.

When you report your lost card, make sure to ask about the possibility of losing points if the account is canceled. Card issuers are required to tell you if canceling your account will result in the loss of your points.

Fast action can minimize the fallout

Losing your credit card doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world. There are simple steps that you can follow to report the card as lost or stolen, get it replaced and protect yourself against any possible fraudulent purchases.

The most important thing is to report the loss of the card as soon as possible. If it has indeed been stolen, the person responsible almost certainly won’t waste time trying to capitalize on the theft.