Protection against unauthorized credit and debit transactions

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Interac have committed to protect you against financial loss if your credit or debit card is used without your permission.

If someone uses your credit or debit card without your permission, you will usually be reimbursed in full if you took reasonable care to keep your account and PIN safe.

Find out more about these commitments and policies:

By law, your maximum liability can’t be more than $50.00. If a federally regulated financial institution (FRFI) issued your credit card then your credit card agreement must explain the maximum amount you’ll be responsible for - or your maximum liability - if your card is used without your permission.

Find out if your bank is federally regulated.

The maximum amount you’re liable for usually can’t be more than your debit card transactions’ withdrawal limits or the amount you have in your bank account.

However, in some situations, you may be liable for more than the actual amount of money in your account if:

  • your account has a line of credit or overdraft protection
  • your account is linked with another account(s)

Your responsibilities when using a credit or debit card

To benefit from a full reimbursement you must take the following action:

  • Immediately notify your card issuer upon becoming aware of an unauthorized transaction or your card is lost or stolen
  • Keep your PIN confidential and never share it with anyone, including a family member
  • Avoid a PIN number that someone could easily guess like a birthday or telephone number

Generally, these conditions are similar across all card issuers. Contact the financial institution that issued your card or check your credit or debit card agreement to find out what steps you must take to qualify for zero liability protection.

Your right to an investigation

If you’ve met your card issuer’s requirements for liability you can’t automatically be held liable for an unauthorized transaction just because an authentication technology like chip-and-PIN was used to make the disputed transaction.

Financial institutions must always thoroughly investigate a disputed transaction, regardless of how the transaction was processed, including with your PIN, by magnetic swipe, or through other technology.

During the investigation, the financial institution should consider all factors that contributed to the unauthorized use of your credit or debit card account. This includes circumstances beyond your control such as:

  • you were coerced
  • your card was stolen
  • there was a system malfunction
  • your PIN was obtained through “shoulder surfing”

Shoulder surfing is when someone gets your PIN by looking over your shoulder while you enter it at an ATM or point-of-sale terminal at a retailer.

The financial institution that issued your card should only decide whether you’re liable for a disputed transaction after completing a thorough investigation.

Resolving unauthorized credit and debit transactions

If you notice an unauthorized transaction on your credit or debit account, or your card is lost or stolen, immediately contact your card issuer.

Find out how to resolve an unauthorized transaction.

Making a complaint

You have the right to make a complaint if:

  • you aren’t satisfied with the results of a financial institution’s investigation into a disputed transaction
  • you feel that your rights are not being respected

Your bank or other financial institution must have a complaint handling process in place to address your concern.

Learn how to make a complaint with your financial institution.

You can also contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada at any point during this process.

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