What to do if you receive a debit card you didn’t apply for?

What should you do if you receive a debit card you didn’t apply for in the mail?

Call your bank immediately if you receive a debit card that you didn’t apply for. The bank will be able to clarify why you received the card or tell you if it’s a scam.

The new debit card could be a legitimate replacement. However, it could also result from something far more sinister such as a scam, a fraudulent order, or a sneaky sales scheme.

Luckily for you, I’ll show you what to do if you receive an unsolicited debit card. I’ll show you different reasons why you may have gotten one. After this article, you’ll be able to know if the debit card you received is legit or a scam.

TFF22-067 - What to do if you receive a debit card you didn't apply for

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What to Do When You Get an Unsolicited Debit Card in the Mail

Most consumers are used to receiving unsolicited credit card sales pieces in the mail. Credit card companies often send you what looks like an actual credit card to get you to apply for the real thing. 

But an unsolicited debit card? Well, that’s different.

Debit cards are connected to your checking account. There are only a few good reasons why you should receive an unsolicited debit card in the mail. However, most of the time you’ll only get a debit card if you ask for one. 

If you get a debit card that you didn’t ask for, take the following precautions:

  1. Don’t just toss the debit card in the trash or cut it up. Call your bank immediately. This is good practice if you received a debit card that you didn’t apply for. If it’s legitimate, they can confirm this for you. If it’s not, they’ll be alerted to the scam or fraud that has taken place and tell you what to do next.
  2. Check the accompanying paperwork. Does it explain the reason for the new or replacement card?
  3. Check the sender and the sending address. Make sure the card came from your bank.
  4. Check the addressee. Was this card sent to you by mistake?
  5. Place a fraud alert on your credit with Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. Debit cards aren’t reported to the 3 major credit bureaus. However, a scammer may now have access to other important personal information that they can use to open up lines of credit in your name.

Reasons Why You Received a Debit Card You Didn’t Apply For

You may receive a debit card in the mail that you didn’t apply for if your banking information was compromised, your debit card is expiring soon, your bank or another company is trying to upsell you on a new debit card, or the debit card was sent to you by mistake.

1. Your Information Was Compromised

Someone may have gotten ahold of your online banking information or was able to convince someone over the phone at your bank that you need a new or replacement card. You may receive a new debit card in the mail because that thief applied for one in your name.

The fraudster will try to intercept this card as it arrives in your mailbox since you never expected it in the first place. Then, they’re free to spend your cash with the convenience of a debit card or drain your account at an ATM.

Call your bank immediately to report the activity if you suspect this is what happened. They can better protect you and your accounts.

2. Your Debit Card is Expiring

If you receive a debit card that you didn’t apply for, it may be a courtesy from your bank because your current debit card is about to expire.

Typically, a bank will send a new debit card one to three months before your current card expires, but they often alert you that this process is happening.

You may receive an email or an online banking alert that your debit card will expire soon. Then, you’ll receive another alert when a new debit card has been issued and is on the way to you via USPS. This way, you’ll know to look out for it.

If you receive a debit card in the mail and your current card is expiring soon, but you never received an email alert, it is possible you missed it. It is always better to call your bank to double-check why you received a new debit card before activating it.

3. A Bank is Trying to Sell You Something

While marginally legal, some banks – yes, even your own bank – will send you a new debit card in the mail in order to sell you on a new debit card product. Often, this new product comes with hidden fees.

For example, Chase Bank reportedly sent customers a new debit card unsolicited. According to Consumerist, a letter accompanying it told the customer to activate the card immediately, an independent source of consumer news and information. They didn’t know that the new debit card had a $25 annual fee attached that allowed customers to earn rewards for their purchases.

Always read the fine print.

4. The Debit Card is Addressed to the Wrong Person

You may receive an unsolicited debit card in the mail simply because it wasn’t meant for you. While this is rare, it happens if the person the card is addressed to recently moved and has not updated their mailing address. In this case, return the mail to the sender by giving it back to USPS.

5. The Debit Card is a Stimulus Check

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government issued stimulus checks to certain people to help jumpstart the economy and help people cover basic expenses. But these “checks” aren’t always physical checks. Some people received debit cards instead.

Suppose the unsolicited debit card is addressed to you and has an accompanying letter from the US Treasury. In that case, it is likely a legitimate cash card from MetaBank, which you can use as you would a debit card. It is not connected to your checking account, but rather preloaded with cash.

Final Thoughts

There are several reasons you may receive a debit card you didn’t apply for, but it’s important to recognize when the debit card is legitimate and when it is not. If your card is expired, you have nothing to worry about when you receive a new card in the mail.

But if you receive a new debit card for any other reason, always check why with your bank. You could be the victim of fraud.


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John is the founder of TightFist Finance and an expert in the field of personal finance. John has studied personal finance for over 10 years and has used his knowledge to pay down debt, grow his investment portfolio, and launch a financial based business. He is committed to sharing content related to personal finance based on his experience in his career, investing, and path towards reaching financial independence.