If you have a credit card, you can imagine the panicked feeling of losing your card, especially in a public location. So if you're on the other end of the equation and you find someone's credit card, it's easy to be sympathetic.
Doing the right thing in a situation where you find a lost wallet or credit card should not be a tough decision. However, you don't want to just leave the credit card there for a thief to pick up.
On the other hand, depending on the laws in your state, trying to be a good Samaritan can put you at risk. In some cases, you could be committing a felony by having someone else's credit card without their permission.
What Could Happen to the Cardholder
Say someone else found the lost credit card before you did, used it to make purchases, then tossed it so they wouldn't be caught with it. Legally, a cardholder can be responsible for up to $50 of purchases made on a lost credit card depending on how long it takes the cardholder to report the missing credit card.
On the other hand, if a cardholder has lost their debit card (which is connected to their checking account), they could lose all the money taken from their account. This may happen if it takes the cardholder some time to notice the card is missing and report it to the bank.
Finding the Lost Credit Card's Owner
Your first instinct might be to track down the owner of the credit card. It sounds like the noble thing to do, and it's probably what most of us would prefer if we'd lost a credit card.
The internet and social media make it easier than ever to find people. You might consider doing a Google or Facebook search to locate the credit card owner, but there's a huge risk of giving the card to the wrong person. Besides a name, credit cards don't contain any other identifying information you can use to verify that you're giving the card to the right cardholder.
Unless the cardholder has a very rare name, it may not be easy to be sure you've found the correct person. And do you want to take on the responsibility of verifying that you're giving the card to the rightful cardholder?
Turn It in at the Location Where You Found the Card
There's a chance the person who lost their credit card will try to retrace their steps to figure out where the card was lost. If you found the credit card at a reputable location, it may be safe to turn the card into a manager or to the customer service desk.
Be aware that the person you give the card to may not be as honest as you—they could use the card fraudulently or sell the credit card information on the internet.
If you can't find anyone to give the card to at the retail location, or you don't think it's safe to hand over someone else's credit card, consider a few other options.
Take It to a Bank Branch
If a bank that's local to you issued the credit card, consider taking the credit card to a bank branch. A banker will be able to locate the cardholder using the account information and contact them to let them know their card was found.
Call the Credit Card Issuer
If the card was issued by a major credit card issuer or a bank without branches in your area, use the number on the back of the credit card to contact the card's customer service. Follow the prompts to speak directly to a customer service representative.
Don't try to access the account by entering the credit card information. The system will likely ask you for some personal information that you will not know, such as a billing zip code, PIN, or the last four digits of the primary cardholder's social security number. Once you speak with a customer service representative, let them know you've found someone's credit card.
The credit card issuer will be able to give you specific instructions on what to do with the card. Likely, the card issuer will instruct you to shred the credit card and discard the pieces. They'll be able to alert the cardholder and close the credit card account to prevent any unauthorized purchases from being made on the account.
You should not play finder's keepers with someone's lost credit card. You'll be committing a crime, and if you're caught, you could face jail time and have to pay a fine—plus be required to repay the purchases you made.