Can You Track a Debit Card or Credit Card with a Smart Chip?
Have you lost a debit card or credit card in the past? Maybe that experience prompted you to look into tracking devices for your card. Unfortunately, the smart chip or EMV chip doesn’t do that for you, but it does protect your account and card information in other ways.
In this article, we’ll cover what the EMV chips do, as well as some alternative methods available for tracking your cards. Then, we’ll go over what you can do if you suspect your card is lost or stolen.
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Smart Chips and EMV Chips Are Not Tracking Chips
A few years ago we started noticing chips embedded in our credit cards and debit cards. Smart chips and EMVs are the same thing — EMV is the technology used for those chips we now see on every card. EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa but is now supported by most companies like Discover, American Express, and UnionPay.
The purpose of the chip is to make it harder for anyone to steal your credit card information. Your card number used to be stored on the magnetic stip on the back of the card, making it fairly easy to steal. Your new EMV card creates a new card number every time you use it.
These unique numbers can only be used once and can’t be traced back to your account, effectively protecting your card number from being stolen and used fraudulently. Since the chip creates a unique code for every purchase that cannot be traced back to your card or account, it is not able to track your physical card.
Is There a Tracking Chip for Debit Cards or Credit Cards?
For your protection, there is no way to physically track your debit or credit cards with a chip. There is, however, an alternative if you really want to track your card.
If you’re a traveller using your card, you might have experienced your bank shutting down your card and declining your purchase because of suspicious activity. This was likely inconvenient, if not infuriating. You probably had to call you bank and inform them that the recent transaction was, in fact, you making the purchase. Then you might have had to sit through a waiting period before your card was active again, or even wait for a whole new card.
This situation might have been inconvenient and aggravating for you, but it also could have saved you from fraudulent purchases. This was the best available solution until now.
Now, Visa has developed an app called Visa Mobile Location Confirmation that allows you to track your location through your phone, effectively giving your bank the heads up that you are physically in the same location where your card is currently being used. This avoids the instances where your bank suddenly shuts down your card to prevent possible fraud. Of course, in order for this to work, you have to be willing to share your location with the app at all times — and always have your phone with you when you use your credit card.
This is an opt-in service that could be beneficial to you if you’ve experienced the above situation when travelling. If you’re not interested in constant tracking to protect your card, we’ll cover a few things you can do if you suspect your card is lost or stolen.
How to Find a Lost or Stolen Credit Card
It’s highly unlikely you’d be able to find a lost or stolen card. If the card is used fraudulently, you could narrow down its location by checking where the card was used, but your account might take a few days to show purchases, and may not even provide enough information for a location. Plus, confronting credit card thieves is not the best way to try to get your card back.
If Your Credit Card is Lost or Stolen
If you suspect your credit card is lost or stolen, contact your bank immediately. You don’t want to wait for fraudulent purchases to come through and deal with that mess. Holding off on contacting your bank could also make you liable for the fraudulent purchases. Most banks will deactivate your card and issue a new one to your address immediately.
If you’ve already noticed fraudulent charges on your card, note them down including all available information regarding the purchase. If you believe your card was only lost and isn’t at risk for fraud — ask about a temporary hold so you don’t have to wait for a new one. This will give you the chance to look around a bit more before completely deactivating your card.
Also be sure to take note of the confirmation number your bank representative provides for holding or deactivating the card. As a fail safe, also send your bank written documentation (like an email) repeating the same information you provided over the phone or online. These extra steps could ensure that you’re credited back any money spent on fraudulent charges.
If Your Debit Card is Lost or Stolen
The process for reporting your lost or stolen debit card is essentially the same as with a credit card. However, a stolen debit card is particularly risky because it’s directly linked to your bank account. That means your money is on the line as soon as a charge is made with your debit card. Fraudulent charges on your debit card will hit home a little harder than with a line of credit. Also, holding off on reporting your lost or stolen debit card puts you at greater liability for any fraudulent purchases. That can make it even harder to get your money back or the transactions cancelled.
There’s no way to physically track your debit or credit cards, and the smart chips can’t do it for you. You could try apps or other tracking devices, but only if you are comfortable giving up more privacy. If you’re looking for ways to protect your card number from fraud — use your EMV chip for purchases as much as possible, use a credit card instead of debit when you can, and always report lost or stolen cards immediately.
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Tylene is a freelancer in Boise, Idaho. She's a self-taught personal finance hacker with zero debt. She eats avocado toast for breakfast.
This post was updated February 28, 2019. It was originally published March 19, 2018.