Credit Card Smarts
The credit card’s ubiquity is undeniable. It’s the preferred method of payment for online merchants and a lightweight and safer alternative to carrying wads of cash while abroad.
However, it is this popularity that has also made the credit card a target for unscrupulous characters – identity thieves, hackers, et al. have found ways to breach the digital fortresses built around the system, resulting in unauthorized purchases and card cloning. Keep your credit card and its pertinent information safe from opportunistic criminals by being aware of safe online shopping practices and credit card safekeeping when traveling.
Never ever divulge your credit card details via e-mail. It is not the practice of online merchants to ask you to provide them your credit card info through an e-mail to re-process a failed transaction. Avoid following links sent through e-mails, too, as this could be a phishing scam, where fraudulent e-mails pretend to be from legitimate brands which then redirect you to a site that steals your info when you input it.
Those who engage in selling merchandise online are required to process payments in a secure, encrypted environment. You know you are being redirected to an encrypted page when the site’s address changes from “http” to “https” (a small padlock icon also appears). Only transact with an online shop when they have a secure way to process your payment. Unless you create an account with them where you save your credit card details for faster payments on your next purchase, they should not save any of your credit card information.
Become a secure online shopper by signing up with PayPal. PayPal is a worldwide payment system that acts as a middleman between yourself and online shops, ensuring that you don’t have to give up your credit card details—just your PayPal username and password.
Another option to keep your credit card info safe is to ask your bank to provide you a virtual credit card number. Some banks give you the option of securing an alternative card number that you will use exclusively for online purchases—you can even set a credit limit which helps protect you in case of any attempted fraudulent purchases.
Avoid sharing your credit card information when you are using public WiFi hotspots – these networks are unsecured, you might as well hand over your credit card to the hackers for them to use.
Protect your credit card against fraud abroad by being aware of these tips:
1. Choose a card with added security measures.
For traveling, apart from selecting a card with perks like mileage points, e.g., choose one that has added security measures in place, like one with photo ID at the back—if it gets stolen, no one will be able to use it, not without the thief rearranging his face first to look like you.
2. Write down important details.
Keep a note of your credit card number and the issuing bank’s customer service hotline separate from your wallet. That way, you’ll be able to report any loss or theft immediately—should your card get stolen, your immediate report of the incident will ensure that you won’t be liable for any unauthorized charges made after you report the theft. If it goes unreported, you may be held partly accountable and may be asked to participate in any purchases charged to your card.
3. Check transactions—and keep receipts.
Make sure to keep all your credit card receipts from your trip in one envelope for easy reference, and if your bank allows you to view transactions for the day, do try to verify if the purchases reflected on your account are indeed valid. That way, if any discrepancies show up, you will be able to get in touch with your bank and contest it immediately.
4. Draw the line.
Credit card companies and banks advise you to draw a line in any blank spaces in charge slips meant for tips, etc. This ensures that no one can add an amount for gratuities after you’ve paid the total bill.
5. Pack light.
To avoid any confusion on your part, limit your purchases to one or two credit cards and leave the rest at home. This will not only help you keep track of your spending, it will also allow you to easily monitor your credit card activities.
6. Designate a traveling ATM card.
If the thought of carrying too much cash makes you uneasy, open an account with a bank that can issue you an ATM card that doubles as a debit card—these are cards that also have a 16-digit card number and a MasterCard/Visa logo which can be swiped at most terminals like a credit card. Creating a travel account separates your savings from your travel budget, limiting your loss in case it falls in the wrong hands. You can always link your travel account to your main account for real-time fund transfers which you can do via the phone or online, should you end up needing more funds during the trip.