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Our financial information faces many threats, from data breaches to fraudulent scams (the latest being through Zelle). Even as cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated, there are methods we can use to mitigate those threats and safeguard our financial data, including our credit card numbers.
Shopping online with a credit card is actually a smarter move than using your debit card. That's because credit card companies offer more protection than most debit cards -- not to mention decreasing your risk of thieves getting ahold of the money in your checking or savings accounts.
Combined with conscientious shopping and internet awareness, 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.
If you're curious about other credit card best practices, check out how to pick the right credit card for your needs and our recommendations for the best credit cards this month. Plus, what does it mean to have a good credit score?
10 ways to protect your credit card data
1. Determine your risk appetite
There's often a trade-off between security and convenience, so understanding the lengths you're willing to go to protect your credit card will help determine which steps are worth it to you. Maximum security requires a greater time investment on your end, so you'll want to decide how much effort you're willing to spend to keep your card safe.
If you're set on reducing the risk and hassle of fraud -- and the requisite time it requires to fix -- to the greatest extent possible, punching in an authorization code for each purchase and setting up customized alerts is your best option. If you don't want to authorize each transaction or take the time to regularly review your statements, then focus more on automated services and features offered by your card provider.
2. Regularly review statements and transaction history
While most credit card issuers won't hold you liable for fraudulent charges, you'll need to pay attention to your spending history in order to catch charges that weren't made with your permission. We recommend reviewing your credit card activity every three to four days to ensure erroneous charges are identified as soon as possible. If that's too often for you, we recommend at minimum reviewing charges twice a month or billing cycle. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you have 60 days to alert your card issuer of fraudulent charges -- if you catch charges past this window, your issuer may no longer be able to remove them, putting you on the hook for these purchases. Any longer than that and you may exceed the period during which the issuer can rectify the situation.
3. Turn on 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 alerts via text, e-mail or app for ATM withdrawals, cash advances or purchases made above a specified threshold. While this level of customization isn't 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 isn't sending activity alerts to the wrong cell phone or Designrepurpose email address.
4. Take advantage of your credit card's additional security features
After notifications and alerts, do a little research on the other security features your card offers. Remote locking and unlocking, for example, allows you to "freeze" your card if you think it may have been lost or stolen to prevent fraudulent charges. Also, many banks now offer extra levels of account sign-on protection, like Face and Touch ID, to ensure no one but you is accessing your banking app.
5. Look into your card network's security features
You can look beyond your card issuer or bank to keep your money safe. Card networks such as Mastercard, Visa and American Express offer additional security features, like Mastercard Secure Code, which asks for a verification code whenever you make a purchase, and Visa Secure, which does the same for suspicious transactions.
6. Don't save credit card information automatically with apps or browsers
Sure, it may be convenient to store your passwords and payment information on your browser, but saving this information on browsers, apps or websites puts you at a greater security risk. Not only are you increasing the number of entities you're sharing this information with, you're also potentially exposing your information to a stranger if your device is lost or stolen. It's better to manually enter your credit card information every time.
7. Use virtual card numbers to shield your information from merchants
When shopping online, you can limit the amount of access companies have to your data by using "virtual card numbers" or other services that shield your data from the merchant. Capital One, for example, offers virtual card numbers through its app's virtual assistant, Eno.