What is card lock and how does it work?

For many, a credit card is a convenient way to make everyday purchases, cover unexpected expenses and even earn cash back or travel rewards on purchases. But misplacing a credit card—or potentially becoming a victim of credit card fraud—can be stressful. And it could lead to fraudulent or unauthorized charges.

Luckily, there are tools and features at your fingertips that can help you manage your credit card and prevent others from using it without your permission. One of those features is card lock, which typically enables you to lock and unlock your credit card from your computer, tablet or smartphone. Capital One makes it easy for customers to lock and unlock their credit cards directly from the Capital One Mobile app.

Sound interesting? Learn more about credit card locks, how it typically works and when to consider using it. 

Key takeaways

  • Locking your credit card generally allows you to prevent the use of your (or your authorized user’s) credit card for new purchases.
  • Capital One cardholders can log into the Capital One Mobile app to lock and unlock credit cards as needed.1
  • You may decide to lock your credit card for a number of reasons, including theft or fraud.
  • Capital One credit card locks are free and don’t result in any penalties to your account if you continue making at least the minimum payment on any balances you’re carrying.

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What is a card lock?

A credit card lock is a security feature that lets you lock certain aspects of your credit card account, often from your online banking portal or mobile app. Some card locks may be indefinite—meaning it remains in place until you unlock the card. And some card locks may lift automatically after a certain period of time. Capital One customers will need to unlock their credit card in order to start using it again.

How do credit card locks work?

Locking a credit card prevents the card from being used to make most new purchases. Generally, your credit card company will continue to authorize any recurring charges you already approved, like subscription payments or automatic bill-pay. This can help prevent you from losing access to services or falling behind on bills while preventing authorization of other new charges.

Generally, card locks are free and won’t result in any penalties or charges to your account. And you can usually unlock the card whenever you want, providing you with more control over your money. Just remember: You’ll still owe interest on any unpaid balances, and you’ll still need to make your minimum payment toward your account, even if you lock your card.

Which transactions are declined during a credit card lock?

The effects of locking your credit card may vary depending on your credit card issuer. Some of the most commonly blocked transactions include:

When to consider locking a card

You may choose to lock your credit card for a number of reasons, including a lost card, potential credit card fraud or to prevent impulse purchases. Card locks can also be a way to keep an old account active without worrying about accidental charges.

Take a closer look at some of the scenarios where you may decide to lock your card:

  • You lost your credit card. If you misplaced your card or left it behind, locking it can prevent others from using it until it’s back in your possession.
  • You’re concerned about credit card fraud. Think your account has been compromised? A card lock might prevent fraudsters from making purchases until you resolve the problem. Just remember to promptly report any fraudulent activity to your credit card company and request a new card.
  • You want to curb impulse spending. A credit card lock can be a good way to reduce impulse buying or minimize credit card debt, especially if you’re trying to save money or pay off your existing balance.
  • You want to minimize another person’s access to your account. Depending on your credit card issuer, locking an authorized user’s card could prevent them from making purchases while still allowing them to remain on your account. For instance, you can add a child as an authorized user to your account to help them establish credit. But locking their card could prevent them from making purchases without your permission while still allowing you to use your credit card as normal. 
  • You want to safely keep an old account active. Setting up a card lock may allow you to keep an old credit account active without running up an unpaid balance—which could help boost your credit score by increasing your average account age. Typically, your credit card company will still authorize previously approved charges, but you can’t make any new charges unless you unlock your card.

How to lock a credit card

Locking a credit card is typically a simple process. In most cases, you can lock your card using your mobile app, but the process can vary depending on your credit card company. Here’s how a Capital One cardholder can lock their credit card using their mobile app:1

  1. Sign in to your Capital One Mobile app.
  2. Select the card you want to lock.
  3. Navigate to the “Need Help?” section and select “Card Lock.”
  4. Select “Yes, Lock This Card” to lock your desired card and prevent new charges.

Using the Capital One Mobile app is the easiest way to lock your card, but it's also possible to do it by signing into your account online.

How to unlock your Capital One credit card

Unlocking your Capital One credit card is as easy as locking it: 

  1. Return to the “Need Help?” section of your Capital One Mobile app
  2. Select “Card Lock.” 
  3. Select the card you want to unlock, then click “Yes, Turn It On” to unlock the card.
  4. After you unlock the card, you or any other authorized users can resume immediate use.

Credit card lock FAQs

Still curious about locking a credit card? Check out these frequently asked questions for more information.

When you lock your Capital One credit card, most, but not all, purchases will be blocked.2 Locking your credit card will block any new or pending transactions, but it won’t stop recurring or previously authorized charges from processing.

In some cases, a credit card lock may prevent you from making purchases with your digital wallet, but that’s not always the case. Contact your credit card issuer for more information.

Locking a credit card won’t directly affect your credit. However, that’s only if you continue making at least the minimum payment on any balances you’re carrying. Missing a payment could result in penalties, fees—and a lower credit score.

Credit card locks in a nutshell

Credit card locks can be a quick and convenient way to prevent others from using your credit card without your permission. It can also be a strategic tool to maintain old accounts without accidentally building up a balance or to help manage spending and credit card debt.

Download the Capital One Mobile app today to lock a card, manage users, track balances and monitor spending from your smartphone or tablet.

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