Credit Card Safety Tips

Credit Card Safety Tips

Over the past few years, there have been several major stories about data breaches.  Sometimes the breach involves credit card information.  Much has been done to make using credit cards more secure, but there are a number of things you can do to be even safer.  Keep reading for credit card safety tips.

What has been done

Anyone who takes credit cards as a form of payment has to worry about PCI Compliance.  The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a strict set of rules that spell out how credit card payment data can be accessed and stored.  Basically, the major credit brands (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and JCB) got together and put together rules that are designed to keep our payment information safe.  All sellers have to follow these rules.  If someone is not in compliance, there can be large fines or they might even lose the ability to take credit cards.


On top of PCI Compliance, card issuers are now issuing EMV cards.  EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard, Visa.  Those are the original companies who came up with the standard, but now all the PCI companies are involved.  You are probably already familiar with this type of card and know them as chip cards.  The benefit of these cards is that the chip can’t be easily copied like the magnetic stripe on the back of the card.

You probably have noticed that some sellers still use the magnetic stripe.  This is because taking EMV is voluntary.  On October 1, 2015, there was a shift in who is liable for fraudulent charges.  Sellers who still use the magnetic stripe, even when the card has a chip, are responsible for the fraudulent charges.  That’s a pretty big incentive to update systems and card readers to use EMV.

Gas Pumps

The deadline for the liability switch for gas pumps is October 2020.  There is a considerable cost for switching, so I wouldn’t expect much to happen before then.  This isn’t good since credit card skimmers are a huge problem.  Skimmers are small wireless devices that are hidden in the pump.  They grab the data when a card is swiped and store it.  The criminal then comes back later and transfers all the card data from the skimmer and makes copies of the cards.

Skimmers are completely hidden and you cannot tell they are there by looking at the pump.  You can check the card reader though.  If it’s loose, don’t use it.  Choose another pump or, even better, go inside to pay.  You could also get a gas card.  They can offer decent discounts on fuel and the incentive for copying them is pretty low since they can only be used at gas stations.

What about online?

When paying online, they should be verifying that your name and address match the card.  That helps, but there are still some things you can do.  First, always verify that you are using a secure connection.  Look back at our post about browsing safely to see how to do this.

You can also use virtual card numbers.  Bank of America and Citibank offer some cards that allow you to create virtual card numbers.  They generate a new card number that you can use in place of your real card number.

Don’t use your debit card

The problem with a debit card is if your card number is stolen, that money is coming straight out of your bank account.  Your account can be wiped clean.  Sure, you can probably get the money back, but what if your rent or mortgage payment is due while you are getting things straightened out?

Using a credit card is safer.  Some people who prefer to pay cash will still use a credit card.  They just pay off the card as they make charges.  With online banking this is easy.

If a credit card is not an option, consider a prepaid debit card, such as Netspend.  Money can be loaded through direct deposit.  They offer zero liability fraud protection and you can use virtual card numbers.

Use another form of payment

You don’t have to always use a card.  For example, many stores take Paypal.  You can use Venmo at those same stores.  Android Pay or Apple Pay are also other options.

Set up alerts

Most payment cards allow you to set up alerts when a card is used.  You can get a text message or email whenever your card is used.  That way, if there is fraud, you can catch it early.  If you get an alert that you didn’t expect, contact your card issuer.  Stay safe.

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