Nowadays, it seems like there is always a new data breach in the news, leading hackers to sweep your financial data including your credit card number. From fraud and identity theft to data breaches and surveillance capitalism, our financial information faces a multitude of threats, some of which can be mitigated and others not.
The good news is that using a credit card is actually a smarter decision than buying with your debit card. This is because credit card companies offer better protection than most debit cards, not to mention the fact that you reduce the risk of thieves stealing money from your checking accounts or from your bank account. saving.
Combined with conscientious shopping, smart internet awareness, and a few other good habits, you can use these tools to protect your financial data. Here are some best practices to keep in mind to maximize credit card security and privacy.
10 ways to protect your credit card data
1. Determine your risk appetite
There is often a trade-off between security and convenience, so understanding how far you’re willing to go to protect your credit card will help you determine which steps are worthwhile for you. Maximum security requires a greater investment of time on your part, so you will need to decide how much effort you are willing to put into securing your card.
If you are determined to minimize the risk and hassle of fraud – and the time it takes to remedy it – as much as possible, entering an authorization code for each purchase and setting up personalized alerts is your best option. . If you don’t want to authorize every transaction or take the time to regularly review your statements, focus more on the automated services and features offered by your card provider.
2. Regularly review statements and transaction history
While most credit card issuers do not hold you responsible for fraudulent charges, you will need to pay attention to your spending history to spot charges that were not made with your permission. We recommend that you review your credit card activity every three to four days to make sure incorrect charges are identified as soon as possible. If this is too often for you, we recommend that you review the charges at a minimum twice per month or per bill cycle. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), you have 60 days to alert your card issuer of fraudulent charges. purchases. Beyond that, you can exceed the period during which the issuer can regularize the situation.
3. Activate purchase notifications and activity alerts
Nothing beats reviewing your credit card activity line-by-line, but automated notifications come close. Some credit cards allow you to turn on notifications and alerts based on your preferences. Wells Fargo, for example, allows users to receive SMS, email, or app alerts for ATM withdrawals, cash advances, or purchases made above a specified threshold. While this level of customization is not standard among all card issuers, a few other banks and card providers offer similar options. Just make sure your contact information is up to date so your bank doesn’t send activity alerts to the wrong cell phone or email address.
4. Take advantage of the additional security features of your credit card
After notifications and alerts, do a little research on the other security features offered by your card. Remote locking and unlocking, for example, allows you to “freeze” your card if you suspect it has been lost or stolen to avoid fraudulent charges. Additionally, many banks now offer additional levels of account login protection, such as Face and Touch ID, to ensure that no one but you is accessing your banking app.
5. Review the security features of your card network
You can look beyond your card issuer or bank to protect your money. Card networks such as Mastercard, Visa, and American Express offer additional security features, such as Mastercard Secure Code, which asks for a verification code every time you make a purchase, and Visa Secure, which does the same for suspicious transactions. .
6. Do not automatically save credit card information with apps or browsers
Of course, it can be convenient to store your passwords and payment information on your browser, but saving this information on browsers, apps, or websites puts you at greater security risk. Not only do you increase the number of entities you share this information with, but you also potentially expose your information to a stranger if your device is lost or stolen. It is best to manually enter your credit card information each time.
7. Use virtual card numbers to protect your merchant information
When shopping online, you can limit the amount of access businesses have to your data by using “virtual card numbers” or other services that protect your merchant data. Capital One, for example, offers virtual card numbers through its application’s virtual assistant, Eno. Each time you make a purchase, the app will generate a new card number for you to give to the merchant, who withdraws funds from your account but does not reveal your account information.
If your credit card doesn’t offer this feature, consider a third-party virtual card service like Privacy. Just be aware that you will need to pass your account information to the app, but that may be a better option than handing it over to dozens of providers online.
8. Consider privacy when choosing a credit card
9. Take advantage of withdrawal options
Some credit card issuers and banks offer ways to opt out of data sharing, through online forms or phone numbers. Card networks like Visa and Mastercard also allow you to limit the extent to which they share your data, as some stores do, like Target. These services are another step in the right direction, but there are usually exceptions that allow them to continue to use and share your data.
10. Use one card for all your online purchases
To protect your money and other credit accounts, limit the number of cards you use online. If possible, go with a single credit card for all your online purchases, rather than using multiple cards. The real trade-off here is that you won’t be able to accumulate rewards for every card if online shopping is your primary means of earning points or cash back. We recommend that you look for a full cash back credit card to resolve this issue.
Credit Card Security and Privacy FAQs
How do credit card companies use my data?
Credit card companies use and share your information primarily for marketing and advertising purposes. This allows businesses to see what you’re buying and respond accordingly, with tactics like serving ads targeted to your purchase history. Your data is also used for “daily business purposes,” which typically means financial forecasting, but can include a wide variety of other activities such as product development and sales strategy.
Each credit card company has their own rules and regulations regarding customer data, so it’s important to read and understand your issuer’s disclosure. To see a sample list of how your data is used and shared, the Wells Fargo privacy notice provides an accessible and straightforward explanation.
What if my credit card information is stolen?
Even if you follow all safety precautions, there is still a possibility that thieves will gain access to your credit card. If this happens, you should report the charge to your credit card issuer immediately to report any unauthorized purchases. Be prepared to provide them with personal information, including your legal name, address, and social security number. From there, your card issuer will likely cancel your current card, review and remove fraudulent charges, and issue you a new card.
We also recommend that you check all other credit accounts to make sure hackers haven’t been given access to additional payment methods. You can reduce your chances of falling victim to credit card fraud by monitoring your credit card bills, using enhanced security tools, and following basic credit card privacy guidelines.
If someone has my credit card information, can they steal my identity?
Generally speaking, no, but it’s a bit more complicated. Identity theft occurs when a thief steals someone’s personal information and uses it to commit fraud. Theft of credit card information is usually a consequence of identity theft.
If a thief only accesses your credit card information, they cannot commit the same level of fraud as someone who commits identity theft. They will be able to accumulate debt on your account and will be able to access your home address and credit card account information, but they generally cannot access your login information or other personal information that would allow them to. open new accounts in your Name.
Is it safe to give credit card information over the phone?
When you give your credit card number over the phone, you get the same protections as if you entered it online or slipped it into a store. The FCBA limits your personal liability for fraudulent charges to $ 50, regardless of how your credit card was used.