If you discover that someone has stolen money from your debit card, notify the bank immediately. The sooner you notify the bank, the more money the bank will legally be required to replace. Stay in touch with your bank to see the progress of its investigation and provide any assistance that officials might request. Some banks will go beyond the legal limits to make sure you get all of your money back.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
How much the bank is obligated to refund to your debit account after money was stolen depends on how long you took to report the theft.
If you realize your debit card or PIN has been lost, stolen or used without your permission, notify the bank as soon as possible. If you notify the bank within two business days, you can only be held liable for up to $50 in unauthorized transactions. Otherwise, you can be held liable for up to $500 in unauthorized charges.
If you receive a bank statement showing an unauthorized transaction and you don't notify the bank within 60 days, you can be held liable for additional unauthorized transactions that take place after those 60 days if the bank can show that they wouldn't have happened if you had reported the fraud. It's generally helpful to check your bank statements online or when they arrive in the mail to look for any unexplained charges so you can quickly contact your bank about them.
Getting Your Money Back
Your bank generally has 10 business days to investigate the fraud once you report it, and they must give you at least a temporary credit for the missing funds. There can be exceptions, including if the bank asks you for written confirmation of the report and you don't reply, so it's best to stay in touch with your bank and respond to any inquiries you receive.
The bank then has 45 days to permanently resolve the issue and must let you know in writing if it determines that the charges were actually authorized by you.
Going Beyond the Law
Some banks will go beyond the law to make sure you get your money back in the event of fraud. Visa® debit and credit cards, for instance, generally have a zero-liability policy for fraud, assuming you report it promptly. Visa also generally requires banks to replace your funds within five days of being notified.
Mastercard® has its own zero-liability policy for credit and debit cards, so if your debit card has one of these common brands, you generally won't owe any money after theft or fraud, provided you call your bank quickly after any incident.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Four Steps You Can Take if You Think Your Credit or Debit Card Data was Hacked
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: How do I Get my Money Back After I Discovered an Unauthorized Transaction or Money Missing From my Bank Account?
- Visa: Visa's Zero Liability Policy
- Mastercard: Zero Liability Protection
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.