CREDIT CARD HELP: The basic fundamentals of credit cards

All about credit reports and credit scores

9 tips for protecting your credit cards, credit score

By Ben Woolsey and Matt Schulz

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Most consumers know that they need to carefully protect their credit and credit ranking, but not many realize the importance of protecting the actual credit card. Buyers must ensure that their credit card and credit card number do not fall into the hands of those who see their personal credit card as potentially 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 catalog company, organization or business. If it was an unsolicited call, do not give the number out.
  • 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 post confidential information on social networking sites. Many people love sharing all kinds of things about their lives on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn. However, sharing too much can leave you open to ID theft. 
  • 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.
  • 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 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 expect to use. 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 with 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 to your issuer immediately.

Though most credit card companies and banks offer unauthorized protection, you are ultimately 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 adviser.

CREDIT CARD HELP: The basic fundamentals of credit cards

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Updated: 03-26-2019