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Merchant-Locked Cards

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Single-Use Cards

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Pause/Close Cards

Pause or close your Privacy Cards at any time to block future transaction attempts

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What Happens When You Lock Your Debit Card?

Ashley Ferraro, Product
Oct 12, 2023
 Min Read

Debit cards may be convenient, but they’re associated with certain security risks. Even if you take precautions to prevent your card from getting lost or stolen, cybercriminals can still exploit vulnerabilities in online systems to access your sensitive data. Recent statistics predicting that the annual global credit and debit card losses will reach $36.1 billion in 2023 testify to the fact that online debit card fraud is on the rise.

Considering the security challenges of owning a debit card, having a quick and easy way to stop unauthorized charges is vital. One solution that has recently become prevalent among card issuers is card locking. This feature allows you to prevent further charges on your card if you notice suspicious activity, among other reasons.

This article will explore the card locking feature, tackling topics such as:

  • What happens when you lock your debit card?
  • How long does a debit card stay locked?
  • What are the pros and cons of locking your debit card?

What Happens When You Lock Your Debit Card?

Card locking is a feature many debit or credit card issuers offer today. It allows you to freeze your card or account temporarily and block further charges

Locking will typically prevent new transactions but leave automatic payments, such as bills, bank fees, and subscriptions, enabled. It also won’t stop transactions that you initiated before locking the card. After locking, you may still be able to pay with the card using a digital wallet.

Most issuers enable you to lock the card from your online banking platform or banking app. Others may require you to do so through customer support due to security reasons. As every issuer has distinct rules and procedures, you should visit their official website or contact support to get the most up-to-date information on how to lock your card.

It’s important to note that locking the card isn’t a replacement for reporting it stolen or lost. You still have to notify your issuer, especially if an unauthorized transaction took place. Failing to do so in time can result in fines and exhausting liability disputes.

How Long Does a Debit Card Stay Locked?

An illustration of payment cards, banknotes, coins, a padlock, and a key
Source: Megan_Rexazin

How long the card stays locked depends on the issuer and other factors, such as the reasons behind the lock. You may need to request the card to be unlocked or do it yourself if there’s a feature for it within your online banking platform. Some issuers may unfreeze the card automatically after a certain period, though. For example, American Express®[1] does so seven days after the card was locked, according to the information available at the time this article was written.

It is important to note that if the reason behind the lock is a fraudulent transaction, you won’t be able to use this card again, and the bank will send you a replacement.

The best course of action is to contact your bank or credit card company and find out what applies to your particular case.

How To Unlock Your Debit Card

Depending on the issuer’s policies, you may be able to lock, unlock, and manage cards online via the online platform or app. If your issuer doesn’t provide such functionality, you can typically contact customer service, and they’ll unlock the card. You’ll likely be asked to confirm your identity with your chosen authentication method, such as fingerprint scan, PIN, or security question.

Reasons To Use Card Locking

Card locking can have many use cases, covered in the table below:

  • Lost card: If you misplace your card, you can have it locked until you find the card or confirm that it’s gone for good. Doing so will block all charge attempts in case your card ends up in the wrong hands.
  • Stolen card or card data: If you notice an unauthorized charge, you can lock the card to prevent further fraudulent activity.
  • Spending control: Locking your card can be beneficial if you have trouble controlling your spending habits. The additional required step of unlocking your card before every purchase might make you reconsider it and avoid making spontaneous, hasty purchases.
  • Auto-pay card: You may prefer to use a separate card for automatic payments. Since card locking doesn’t stop such payments, you can activate the feature to prevent other types of transactions on your designated auto-pay card.
  • Unused or specific-purpose cards: Even if you rarely use it, having a credit card on hand can be helpful for credit score building and emergency purchases. You may also use certain cards for specific purchases due to their rewards. Locking such cards ensures that they can only be used for their intended purposes.

The Cons of Locking Your Debit Card

A closeup photo of a combination padlock sitting atop a keyboard with payment cards surrounding it
Source: Towfiqu barbhuiya

Card locking has many upsides, but it’s not without its shortcomings. Familiarize yourself with those downsides in the next sections.

Restricted Access to Funds

Locking your card prevents potential fraudsters from using it, but it also prevents you and other authorized users from accessing the funds. If you tend to lock your card, it’s important to have a backup payment option in case of emergencies. You should also let other users know about the temporary change promptly, especially if they rely on access to the funds. 

Unlocking Delays

In most cases, card locking and unlocking occur seamlessly. Still, these actions can sometimes take more time due to a bug in the system or other issues, such as limited internet access, which can hamper you if you need to act quickly. To avoid this, you need to plan ahead and ensure you’ll be able to unlock the card before the next purchase.

Temporary Protection

While the card locking feature can temporarily secure your funds in case of a lost or stolen debit card, it can't do much more than that in terms of protection. 

If funds have been taken out of your account, you will have to go through a long and complicated dispute process. While credit cards have robust fraud protection measures in place, absolving you of monetary liability in the case of theft, you may not enjoy as much protection with debit cards. 

Debit card transactions are regulated by a different law, which generally imposes time limits for filing a dispute and may potentially hold you liable if you don’t report the loss in time. Some banks are more lenient toward consumers, implementing a zero-liability policy. In any case, it’s best not to risk your information getting stolen in the first place, as dispute processes can be time consuming and complex.

Locking your card may help in certain situations, but prevention is key. You must adopt proper payment security practices, such as multi-factor authentication, transaction alerts, and virtual cards, to avoid compromising your card data in the first place. Virtual cards are the most reliable protection measure, masking your financial information during online transactions and reducing your chances of becoming a fraud victim.

Privacy Virtual Cards—A Convenient Way To Secure Your Online Transactions

A photo of a person using their smartphone casually, surrounded by flowers and with a cup of coffee next to them
Source: Rohit Tandon

A Privacy Virtual Card is a unique, auto-generated 16-digit card number with its own expiration date and security code, and it is connected to your debit card or bank account. If you use a virtual card to shop, you’ll mask your real card information and add an integral layer of security to your transactions. In case of a cyberattack on a merchant’s servers, criminals can only access your virtual card data, which means your actual card and bank data stays protected. 

That’s why many businesses and consumers use Privacy Virtual Cards to safeguard their financial information from being compromised online. 

Two Types of Privacy Cards

Privacy lets you generate Merchant-Locked or Single-Use Cards:

  1. Merchant-Locked Cards are tied to the first merchant you used them at. They protect you by preventing potential hackers from using the virtual card number anywhere else and are ideal for subscriptions and recurring payments.
  2. Single-Use Cards close automatically a few minutes after the first transaction. Hackers who get hold of the virtual card details can’t do anything with them since they become invalid quickly after the purchase.

Unlike regular credit or debit cards, Privacy Cards can be paused, unpaused, and closed instantly without affecting your real card or bank account. Once you pause or close the virtual card, Privacy will automatically decline all unauthorized charges from sneaky merchants. This feature is especially helpful for blocking unwarranted subscription charges as you deal with the cancellation process. 

You can also set spending limits on your Privacy Cards. Doing so allows you to prevent hidden fees and remain within your budget.

With Privacy Cards, you can shop at most vendors that accept U.S. credit or debit cards.

Browser Extensions, Mobile Apps, and Password Manager

Downloading the Privacy browser extension will allow you to check out faster and safer. The extension autofills the virtual card information at checkout, saving you from having to look for your wallet or type in card numbers. The supported browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari

The Privacy mobile app, available for iOS and Android, allows you to generate and manage cards on the go. You will also receive real-time notifications when your cards are used or declined, helping you detect unusual activity timely. 

By integrating Privacy with 1Password, a password manager, you can safely store your sensitive online data, such as login credentials and card numbers, and manage them from a convenient centralized dashboard.

Source: FLY:D

Privacy—A Comprehensive and Affordable Payment Security Solution

Privacy offers both free and paid pricing plans:

Plan Cost Cards/Month Features
Free for domestic transactions 12 - Spending limits
- Pausing and closing
- Browser extensions
- Mobile apps
Pro $10/month
36 - Everything in Personal
- 1% cashback on eligible purchases (totaling up to $4,500/month)
- Priority support
- No foreign transaction fees
- Ability to mask transaction info on bank statements
Premium $25/month 60 -Everything in Pro
- Dedicated account management

Privacy employs a wide range of security measures to ensure the protection of its users’ data, including split-key encryption and PBKDF2 hashing. It’s accredited by the Better Business Bureau® due to its ethical business practices and high customer service standards.

To start using Privacy, follow these four steps:

  1. Create an account
  2. Enter the details needed to verify your identity
  3. Connect a funding source (debit card or bank account)
  4. Request a Privacy Virtual Card

Privacy is bank-agnostic and integrates with most U.S. banks. U.S. residents over 18 years old with a checking account at a U.S. bank or credit union are eligible to sign up.


[1]American Express.,Card%20is%20lost%20or%20stolen, sourced August 2023

Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Checkout securely online by creating unique virtual card numbers for every purchase. Avoid data breaches, unwanted charges, and stolen credit card numbers.
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Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Checkout securely online by creating unique virtual card numbers for every purchase. Avoid data breaches, unwanted charges, and stolen credit card numbers.
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Privacy virtual cards
Spending Limits

Set a spending limit, and Privacy will block all charges that go over the limit

Merchant-Locked Cards

Lock your Privacy card to one merchant you frequently shop from

Single-Use Cards

Secure your one-time payments to websites whose trust worthiness you're unsure of

Pause/Close Cards

By pausing or closing a card, Privacy will block all future transactions

Get a Privacy Card Now
Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Checkout securely online by creating unique virtual card numbers for every purchase. Avoid data breaches, unwanted charges, and stolen credit card numbers.
Sign Up
Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Sign Up