Banks and other financial institutions issue hundreds credit cards to consumers every day. Most people carry one or more, and they are heavily used for holiday shopping.
But now credit card fraud is more frequent than ever. Millions of people are victimized by credit card breaches every year, with the holiday shopping season a particularly vulnerable time.
Not all issuers – and credit or debit cards – are the same.
Choose wisely when opening a credit or debit card account with a financial institution; the decisions you make now will either haunt or comfort you should you ever be victimized by fraudulent activity.
What to look for in your credit or debit card
Just say no – as in zero.
If your credit or debit cards are physically stolen or used without your authorization, you may not be liable for any charges. If your card has zero liability protection, you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges.
Sign up for account alerts. Chase uses specialized fraud monitoring tools, and will text or email card holders to alert them to unusual card activity.
If fraud is suspected or your card is stolen, a good provider will ship a new card to you immediately – even if you're traveling abroad.
How you can help prevent fraud
Eliminate hard-copy statements by signing up to access your credit and debit card account online. Be sure to monitor it every few days – or more frequently during this busy shopping season. If you spot anything inaccurate or unauthorized, contact your provider's customer service center immediately. If you wait to get your statement in the mail, weeks may pass before you identify a fraudulent transaction – which tend to grow in volume and amount if they go undetected.
Keep contact information up to date.
If you move or get a new cell phone number, make sure you update your contact information accordingly with your card provider. That will ensure they are able to reach you in the case of suspected fraud or other emergency.
Strengthen your password.
It may seem inconvenient, but a long password – using numbers, letters and symbols – is much harder to hack. If you choose something simple or personal – like birth dates or your kids' names—savvy hackers may be able to break the code simply by reading your profile on social media. Plus, it's not a bad idea to change your password every few months.
Throughout the end-of-year shopping season, and anytime, be vigilant in following these steps in tandem with a card issuing-partner that is similarly attentive. Doing so will further the likelihood of happier, stress-free holidays.