Can a Business Charge My Debit Card Without My Authorization?

by Pat Kelley ; Updated July 27, 2017

Businesses are not allowed to charge your debit card without your authorization, but it is a regularly occurring problem. Debit cards are stolen -- or their card numbers are stolen and replicated on another card -- and then used. Fraudulent telemarketers may use deceptive means to gain access to debit card information, then sign unwitting customers up for recurring charges. Federal banking regulations limit the amount of money you can lose to such schemes.

Federal Limits

Under federal banking regulations, you are liable for losses of up to $50 if you notify your bank within two days of discovering the fraudulent charge. You can lose up to $500 if you fail to notify your bank within the two-day period. Banks can take up to 10 days to return your money while they investigate. If they need more time to investigate, they must return your money -- but they may take it back again if the investigation determines you were at fault for the loss.

Automatic Debit Scams

Telemarketers may call your home and inform you that you have won a free trip or offer to sell a service to repair your credit. After a long telephone conversation, they may ask for your debit card number to process the prize. You may authorize a small, one-time charge. Even if you don't, the scammers may bill you every month for a service you do not want. If you notice that a company is billing you without authorization, notify the bank immediately.

Cancelation in Writing

There may cases in which you authorized a company to make a recurring withdrawal from your debit card account but you have ceased to need its services. Occasionally, the company will continue to charge your account. If this happens, you must notify the business in writing that you no longer want it to charge you. "You provided the merchant with written authorization to debit your account. Because the bank was not a party to that agreement, they cannot cancel it for you. You need to instruct the merchant to cease debiting your account," the U.S. Department of Treasury says on its website.

Lost Cards

If your card is lost or stolen, your liability is similar to situations in which a fraudster used the card's information -- without the card -- for gain. If you report a card lost or stolen before it is used, federal law states that you cannot be held liable for any charges. If your card is used, your loss is limited to $50 if you report the unauthorized charges within two days.

About the Author

Philadelphia-based freelancer Pat Kelley has been writing since 2002, most recently for Scripps Texas Newspapers. He has won numerous awards for reporting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science.