4 Simple Ways to Safely Use Your Credit & Debit Cards

It’s probably second nature for you to swipe your debit card at the grocery store or hand over your credit card at the gas pump, but you should think twice before you assume your cards are safe everywhere you use them. The truth is, your account and sensitive information are highly coveted by thieves, and odds are, you’re not using cash or checks to make your purchases. Research conducted by Capital One found that only 41% of Americans use cash regularly and 28% of their purchases were completed using a credit card.

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Wondering about how to keep your information safe and maximize the benefits of your cards? Read on for four crucial do’s and don’ts for using your credit and debit cards safely.
 
1. Be careful where and when you use your cards.This one may seem rudimentary, but it’s important to use the right card at the right time (and place). For instance, you’ll want to use your credit card to complete online purchases because they can offer more robust fraud protection than debit cards can. Use your debit card for everyday purchases but, as financial wellbeing expert, Andy Dinovo, reminds us, don’t get swipe-happy. It stings to spend cash, but swiping your card is much less painful, so keep that in mind.
 
2. Keep your PIN (and other account information) to yourself.Seriously, don’t share your PIN with anyone and sign for purchases instead of using your PIN as often as you can. Taking those two small steps can greatly protect you from those interested in stealing your information. While you’re at it, it’s probably time to update your passwords to keep your accounts extra secure and explore a few ways to protect yourself from cybercrime. 
 
3. Pay attention to your transactions and stay on budget. Whether you prefer to get a paper statement in the mail or you’d rather opt into notifications on your phone for each transaction, you need to stay clued into each account to avoid errors and better protect yourself from fraud and theft. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t look right, either--you’re your own best defense! This goes for your budget, too. Just because you have a high limit on your credit card doesn’t mean you should max it out, even if you pay it off each month, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your checking account balance so you don’t get hit with overdraft fees.
 
4. Get familiar with the tools and resources available to you.For debit cards, you should start with your bank, and for credit cards, begin with the financial institution who issued your card. Take time to get familiar with terms, overdraft fees, penalties, FAQs, and customer service details so help is quickly accessible if you have questions or run into a problem with your account. Making sure you’re prepared early on offers you peace of mind as you shop!
 
Want to explore other ways to get the most out of your accounts and stay safe while you spend? Check out Landmark Bank’s blogs on a variety of helpful topics.
 

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