Is Your Credit Card Safe This Holiday Season?

Credit Card SecurityLast year might as well have been known as the “Year of the Data Breach.” It wasn’t the first time a major retailor announced a breach of client data by hackers, but 2013 saw the most massive breaches in history, including Target (110 million customer records hacked), Neiman Marcus (1.1 customers compromised), Michaels (3 million customers compromised), and dozens of smaller retailers. In 2014, the news didn’t get any better. In September of this year, Home Depot announced that as many as 56 million cards might have been compromised, far exceeding even the Target breach, and in October, Kmart became the latest victim. The damage from that breach hasn’t yet been fully calculated.

As you gear up for the holiday shopping season, how can you protect your sensitive information from being stolen? Will you get caught up in the next great data breach? Here are three tips that can help you protect your data or at least mitigate the damage if you become a victim in another big data breach.

Use Cash Instead of Credit Cards

Unless you want to give up holiday shopping altogether (which would make for a very sad Christmas), the only way you can protect your sensitive financial data is to give up the credit and debit cards and shop with cash. You know, those green bills that were popular back in the day. Paying in cash has other advantages too! It can help you stay within your shopping budget (can’t spend more than you have) and will save you from the holiday hangover of interest rate charges on your credit cards.

Scrutinize Your Credit and Debit Card Statements

Data thieves know that retailers are the busiest during the holiday shopping season, so that is the time to strike. As you start your shopping, make sure to check your debit card and credit card statements often. It will only take you a minute to jump online each week and scroll through your transaction list. If you notice any strange purchases or sketchy retailers, contact your bank right away. Their fraud department will cancel your card, refund the purchases, and issue you a new card.

Use the Same Credit Card

If you choose to pay for your purchases using a credit card, try to use the same card for all of your shopping. This will limit the risk you face (your other cards will be safe) and make it easier to check your purchase history each week.

We don’t know what data breaches this holiday season will bring, but a few smart precautions can help you stay merry and protected as you shop to your heart’s delight. Have a safe and wonderful holiday!

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