As I’ve always preferred the convenience of using my debit or credit cards rather than carrying cash around, I seem to get asked that question a lot! I tend to reach for my debit card first. Typically I use it in credit card mode to avoid having to key in my PIN at the register –– it’s only when I need to get cash back at the grocery store or use an ATM that I actually use the PIN.
But lately, I’ve wondered, is it really safe to use my debit card without the PIN? Should I use my credit card instead? What about when I’m shopping online? I did a bit of research––here’s what I found out:
Using Your Debit Card
Debit cards can pose as a risk as they are a direct line to your bank account information. That’s why it’s important to play it smart when and where you use your card.
Stay Alert When Using Your PIN
To be safe only use your debit card at a trusted, well-established business. If you are required to enter your PIN, make sure no one is looking over your shoulder as you key in the number combination. When you use your card to withdraw cash, make sure it’s only from a certified ATM, at a bank or credit union, and be careful of anyone who stands too close to you as they may be trying to see your password.
Beware of Skimming Devices
Electronic “skimming” devices are used to capture unsuspecting customers’ track information (the information on the back of credit and debit cards) while the card is being used for a legitimate transaction. Skimming devices can be placed either directly on an ATM machine or in the card access point on the door to the lobby of the ATM. It’s pretty hard to spot these types of devices so when in doubt move on to the next ATM rather than run the risk of being skimmed. To read more about skimming, check out this report from the New York City Police Department.
Using Your Credit Card
Although credit cards tend to have more anti-theft features, and the bank issuing the card can help if something goes wrong, they can still pose financial risks. I tend to feel safer and more protected using my credit card rather than my debit card when I shop online or when I need to make payments over the phone. And, I only do this if I’ve initiated the call. You should never give your credit card information to someone who calls you.
If you are using your credit card to transact online make sure the site is encrypted. Trusted ecommerce sites start with HTTPS. The “s” means it’s secure.
Credit cards and account numbers should be handled like they are cash — according to the FTC, adopting this mentality is an effective way to prevent misuse.
If you’re using your credit card in another country, check your account at the end of each day to make sure there aren’t fraudulent charges. Always check your monthly credit card and bank statements and make a conscious effort when (and where) you use your cards, to avoid sacrificing security for convenience.
Vigilance is Key
Using these tips can help protect you whenever you use your debit or credit card. Another way to stay safe is to enroll in IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit. Your personal information, including your credit, will be monitored 24/7, and you’ll be notified immediately of any suspicious activity so you can act before any damage is done. If anything does happen, IdentityForce will be with you every step of the way helping you restore your identity.
Image courtesy of Flickr user USDAgov.