Mozo guides

What happens if I lose my card overseas?

Holidaying overseas is a huge part of the Australian way of life, with thousands of keen travellers jet-setting across the world every day.

But sometimes travel isn’t not all fun and games, especially  if you were to lose your credit, debit or prepaid travel money card which would limit your access to funds when you’re a fair distance away from your local banking services at home. 

It could happen to anyone.

So to help you out if you ever do find yourself in this kind of sticky situation, we compiled some info about the options that can get you quick access to money if you need it.

RELATED GUIDE: Can I use my everyday debit or credit card overseas?

What should I do once I realise my card is gone?

If you’re abroad and you realise that your card is missing, it is necessary to take a few simple steps before you have a Britney Spears sized breakdown.

Sometimes you may have only misplaced your card and it could simply be wedged in the deep, dark corners of your suitcase only to reappear in a couple of days.

So for this reason, most banks give you the option to temporarily lock a card rather than cancel it altogether, which can be done very easily via banking apps, online or over the phone. This means that while you scurry around looking for your card, the card is locked and cannot be used. But once it’s found it’s as easy as unlocking it before you have instant access to your money again.

If you’re sure you aren’t in possession of the card but still suspect it could turn up, report the lost card to local police. The police can only return a missing card if - A, they know it's missing and B, they have your details so they can send it to you if it turns up. For insurance reasons this may also be necessary if you need to make a claim on lost items while travelling.

What if I need a new card?

In the circumstance where your card is truly lost and never to be seen again, you may be able to get a new card to replace it.

Make sure you cancel, not just lock, your current card as soon as possible so that it becomes invalid and no one can use it. Also notify your bank that the card has been lost or stolen, which can be done online or over the phone.

RELATED: Top travel money cards for your Easter holiday

The good news is, both credit and debit cards can often be replaced and sent to your overseas location within 48-72 hours of application. It’s important to note that prepaid travel cards may not be able to be applied for once you have left the country so may be impossible to replace if misplaced overseas.  

In most cases you are required to get in contact with Visa or Mastercard Global Assistance services as they issue the card through your bank. You are likely to be asked to answer some security questions and provide personal details/banking information so that you have access to your funds and can be issued a replacement card.

With some banks, such as NAB, you are given a temporary card that has a fixed expiry date two months after issue. This card cannot be used to withdraw cash from ATMs, but it can be used for everyday transactions - a permanent card is sent to the local Australian address the bank has on file.

International card replacement procedures differ between banks so it may even be worthwhile  to make sure you are aware of the process and terms before you leave.

What if it was my only source of money?

Say your entire wallet has been stolen or you’ve travelled with only one card that you’ve now lost and are stuck with no access to any money at all - what can you do?

Well, in this rare circumstance, Visa and Mastercard have emergency cash services that can get you quick access to your account so that you can withdraw money from participating local banks without a card.

For example, if you’re a Mastercard customer you are required to contact them over the phone and report your card as lost or stolen. Once they are aware, they give you the option of an emergency cash advance where they arrange local currency to be made available to you within just two hours.

RELATED: How to keep your money safe overseas

Just like when you replace your lost card, you will be required to answer security questions and provide your personal details but once they are certain you are who you say you are they will provide you with further information on how and where to access your emergency cash.

While this is a great option for people who are in financial emergencies, it’s not a great idea to rely on this service as a back-up over being prepared with extra cards or having a secret cash stash in your suitcase - save yourself the hassle, the waiting time and the phone bill! 

Is there anything I can do to prepare before I go overseas?

Just like organising your flights and accommodation in advance, it’s equally important to be financially prepared before you leave for travel so that you give yourself constant access to your money in case you lose your card.

Here are some tips to help you avoid disaster before you leave:

  • Tell your bank you're going overseas - A significant item on your checklist before you travel is to tell your bank that you are leaving the country and for how long. It’s easy to contact them through their banking app, online or even over the phone. If you do this, the bank will keep an eye on your spending and inform you if there is any suspicious activity. Similarly, it means that the bank knows you’ll be using a card abroad so they won’t freak out when they see a number of purchases on margaritas in Mexico, thinking that you are still sitting on the couch at home in Australia. In some cases, banks can temporarily block cards until they have confirmation that it is you using the card not a scammer - so just give them a heads up beforehand to avoid a mix up.
  • Take more than one card - When it comes to choosing a card to take overseas, it’s always best to be equipped with more than one card so that you have wider access to your money in the event that a card is lost or stolen. This may mean that you take both your debit card and travel credit card, or opt for a pre-paid travel money card and have your credit card as back-up. Generally, banks that issue prepaid travel cards provide you with two cards as they know that it can be easy to lose items when you are holidaying. To avoid being suck, store one card in your wallet and throw one in with your bulkier luggage - having two separate storage locations lessens the likelihood that both will go missing on the same trip.  
  • Take photocopies of your cards - Before travelling, some people like to take photocopies of their passport, flight details and accommodation information - do the same with your cards so that you can grab the details quickly if you need them. Similarly, make sure you know all the personal details and answers to security questions that you provided to your bank in case they need to verify your identity over the phone for a replacement card or emergency cash.
  • Have alternate sources to fund to your card - If you are a bit of a nervous Nelly and want to be extra prepared, set up Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay on your smartphone, so you can use your card digitally which may save you if your physical card is lost. Also, always have a float of emergency cash stashed somewhere so that you have access to local currency when you need it. In a digital world it may seem old school but it could be a security blanket you desperately need when your once-reliable card has escaped you.

RELATED: 5 Top Travel Money Tips

Need some more advice on travelling money-smart? Visit Mozo’s travel money hub for guides, tips and the latest news.

Polly Fleeting
Polly Fleeting
Money writer

Polly Fleeting is a personal finance writer here at Mozo, specialising in loans and credit cards. Her work is aimed at helping people find ways to make smart product choices, reduce debt and get more for their hard-earned dollars. Polly has a degree in Journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney. She is also ASIC RG146 (Tier 2) certified for general advice.