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My Family

What happens when you lose your credit cards.

May 2, 2008
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Recently I unfortunately lost my wallet and needed to replace all my credit cards and various ID. The one saving grace was that months ago I took the time to write down all of the credit card numbers and their respective contact phone numbers. These items I put in a secure place on my computer.

This small task that took about 10 minutes to complete saved me a great deal of time researching what cards I had (there were 9) and let me act on replacing them immediately when I found out instead of waiting until evening when I could research through my records.

This being said, I would like you, the fine, fat, and slow-witted reader to take heed. Put this article down right now and go can do this task. I will wait until it is completed before continuing.

And now for the story:

Armed with my handy-dandy list I began calling all the card companies. They all play by a very similar script and are very apologetic to your loss. Most of the companies were very quick to gather what information they needed and send me on my phone calling adventure from hell before some scoundrel bought a boat or hookers and Kristal.

My first phone call was my debit card from CitiBank, and not knowing what to really expect they asked some info like my card number and part of my social security number to verify who I was and then told me it would be 5 to 7 days for them to send me a new one. This is where I made my first mistake.

For me, and what I believe is for most, the debit card is the lifeline to all cash. Without it you need to rely on credit cards for purchases (note, I have no credit cards at this point). So on the face of it, 5-7 days seems reasonable, but the reality is, that is 2 weeks without the ability to get cash easily.

A tip for anyone going through this is to say this is not good enough, and have them overnight the card to you. They can, and they will if you ask nicely. The rest of the cards be damned if you can get the green.

The next card up was my GM Mastercard, where you can earn points towards a car (I should be eligible in about 20 years). This was 10-14 days, so I thought the 5-7 was pretty terrific at this point, but whatever, I went on to the next card, which was my Amazon Visa card.

The funny thing about this was that because I lost my card, my wife would need to get a new one for herself too. This seems pretty stupid, but since they said I would have a new card in 4-5 days I wasn't doing much complaining. This is also something to keep in mind if you want to extricate a card from a loved one, simply say you lost it and their cards are toast too -- Oops, I forgot to tell you that you spend too much and can't have a card anymore.

The next one up was the ToysRus Visa card with a whopping 3-5 days. This rocks, at this rate I thought I would be back in business by the weekend especially since this is the card I use the most -- gotta love the Jeffery dollars for toys and games.

I was getting into quite a groove with these phone calls. I call, they apologize for my bad luck in losing the card and send me a new one quickly. This leaves me with three stories - a good, a bad and a strange one. Note, the Home Depot and Sears cards have been omitted for your enjoyment.

The best of the bunch was not even my credit card, but my corporate card for the company I work for. This is an American Express card. This one didn't start out so well because I did wait on hold for about 5 minutes, and then they asked me two pieces of information that I don't know, but I was able to find on my computer, because of past experiences. This would be a good opportunity to add these to that list that you created. They asked for my wife's mother's maiden name and my mother's birthdate. I understand exactly why they want these points of information because it's not something that is generally at hand. That being said, I generally wouldn't have these at hand. Hell, I barely remember my wife's maiden name, and if I remembered my mother's birthday I'm sure she would be much nicer to me. But I did have these gems and this is where the good part comes in.

The said that I would receive my card UPS overnight. This was beautiful, overnight means within 24 hours part of my life would be put back together. Never mind that if I used this card it meant expense report hell, and lots of phone calls for putting personal crap on the corporate card, but it was plastic in my hand the next day!

The weird was my Commerce Bank card. Their idea of replacing my card was me going in to a branch and showing identification, otherwise I would need to fill out a bunch of paperwork to re-apply for a card. At this point your brain should be sending messages that say that I have lost my wallet, and the id they want is in there, and so there is an endless unsatisfied loop where at some point I will need to go to the bank with some sort of macaroni art I created in the 2nd grade showing my picture, because that is all that is left.

Now for the best one, which is my personal businesses debit card. This one is the meat and potatoes for my business; at least it pays for the meat and potatoes.

This card is my Chase debit card. Now, let me begin by saying I hate Chase, for more details check back soon for the 'I hate Chase and this is why' article.

This phone call took about 16 minutes, which is a lifetime compared with the 2-5 minutes for all the others and began innocent enough with asking me some basic questions like my company's tax id number, and my partial social security number.

The next question was what was the date and amount of your last deposit. To this I said to the lady that all deposits were automatic and I had no idea. The next question was of my last check or withdrawal. To this I said it was the previous day and the amount was about $12, but this was an online transaction, hence no real receipt (which would have been in my wallet anyway). At this point the woman asked me if I had an international phone number, because that's what was in her system, and that if I had an accurate phone number she would be able to send me a new card, and I would need to call back to try my luck again.

At this point I got it through my thick skull that I needed to know the transaction info if I didn't want to start this mess over, so I asked the woman that if I log into my account and give her the info she needed would she be able to send me a card. Note, that this card is going to my address of record, an address that has not changed in over 5 years.

So, I logged in and gave her the info that she already had on her screen, but apparently this was not good enough. Because the transaction in question, the $12.80 charge, was 'pending', and because of this was not the answer to her question.

If the main purpose of this interrogation is to identify me, and I give you a transaction that in YOUR system is 'pending' why can't you help a slow-witted, fat, balding guy out? But understanding the stupidity goes a long way, so I looked down the list to a transaction from about a week before and gave her the necessary information.

But, to no avail.

Because I did not have a correct phone number on file, the system would not let her complete the transaction.

Here, she was getting very frustrated and put me on hold a couple of times, before her manager came on the line and told me I would be getting a new card in the mail in about 5-7 days.

The moral of the story

This experence has taught me a great deal about getting up and running after losing my wallet. Here are my takeaways, hopefully you can take some away too:

1. Write down all your credit card numbers and phone numbers to call, and keep it in a handy place.

2. Get rid of credit/debit cards you don't use. If you keep one or two at home, when something like this happens you will have options.

3. Make copies of everything in your wallet including registration, insurance and put it in a safe place.

4. Never keep your social security card in your wallet.

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