Friday, February 27, 2009

Protecting Your Credit Cards

When most people think of protecting their credit cards, they are thinking about protecting their credit or credit ranking, not the actual credit card. As a responsible credit card user, you want to ensure you will get the best rates and benefits associated with a strong credit rating. However, it is not enough to safeguard your credit card’s usage. You must also ensure that your credit card and credit card number do not fall into the hands of those who do not care about your financial responsibilities. Do not allow your credit card information to unwittingly reach the eyes of those who see your personal credit card as free money.

To ensure that your credit card remains safe from unauthorized charges, here are a few ways you can protect your credit:

  • Don’t give your credit card account number out over the phone without knowing why. – Know who is asking for your number on the phone before giving out the number. Make sure that person is employed by a reputable catalogue company, organization or business.
  • Don’t use your credit card on an unsecured Website. – Online purchases are fast and easy. However, unless the Website is secure, your credit card number is at risk for being stolen. Use only Websites that explicitly state they are secure and reputable businesses and for which such claims can be verified.
  • Don’t put your credit card account number on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard. – Anyone could see this information. If necessary, include any credit card or account numbers on information inside the envelope only and make sure such details can’t be seen through the envelope.
  • Don't sign a blank charge slip. – Always know how much the charge will be and verify the amount from the receipt given to you.
  • Get and destroy charge carbons from stores. – When you receive your charge receipt, you should also get the charge carbons from the store. Note: some store use carbonless charge slips nowadays to ensure your credit safety. If the cashier does not give you the carbon, ask for it immediately and then tear it up into small pieces before throwing it away.
  • Check your monthly statement. – Don’t automatically pay your credit card bill each month or let it sit on your desk. Open your statement immediately and look closely at each listed charge to verify the amount and whether you actually made such a purchase. If something is wrong, contact your credit card company immediately. This way, you will be able to determine if there was an error or whether any other recent unauthorized charges have been made to your card.
  • Cut up old credit cards through the account number. – When you get a new card or close an account, cut up the old card through the account number so it can’t be identified.
  • Protect your credit card and pin numbers at ATMs or when using the telephone. – If you use your credit card for cash advances or for long distance charges on a payphone, be sure to stay aware of the people around you. Some credit card thieves memorize credit card and pin numbers from the buttons you push on the phone. Use your body to block anyone’s line of vision.
  • Carry as few credit cards as possible. – People with multiple credit cards should only carry a few that they anticipate using. For example, if you carry an emergency card and a gas card, you don’t also need to carry another general credit card like a Visa or a store credit card, unless you plan to go to that store. By being selective in the card you carry, if you happen to lose your wallet or purse, only a few cards are at risk of being misused, rather than all of them. If you do lose a credit card, report it immediately.

Though most credit card companies and banks offer unauthorized protection, ultimately, you are responsible for how your credit card is used. Your credit rating is important, so protect your credit the way you would protect a wallet full of cash. For more information on how to protect your credit cards or on how to resolve problems from unauthorized charges, contact your credit card issuer or your financial advisor.

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