Odds are if someone steals your credit cards and goes on a buying spree it won’t cost you anything. Federal law limits your liability to fifty bucks.

Most card companies will tell you that while it can cost you that $50, that fee is rarely applied.

Fraud protection

Most card companies now offer some form of fraud protection, but be sure it is a genuine guarantee before you accept it. There are a lot of phony companies making phony offers of “insurance” against someone else using your card, when in fact you are already protected.


You are supposed to report stolen or missing credit cards as soon as possible, or at least within 24 hours, for that zero-liability luxury. Once again most card companies admit that they rarely enforce this requirement either. However, it is the wisest practice to do just that and get on the phone as soon as you see the card is gone or the minute you see a bill with charges you never ran up.

Then write

Follow that call with a letter confirming the facts of the loss or the phantom charges on your statement, and also include the details of your call (who you spoke to, when, etc). It’s a simple ‘better safe than sorry’ policy.

Read all of the fine print when you get your card deal, because there are always exceptions. Card companies are more liable to ask for their money if you have done something reckless, like not reporting the card stolen for a year or more.