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Credit and Debit Card Safety

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Published: Dec 4, 2019

Shop with Confidence this Holiday Season with Credit and Debit Card Safety

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Credit and debit cards can be one of the most convenient ways to shop at stores and online. Some credit cards can even provide you rewards and cash back that serve as a sort of rebate or discount for the items you’re buying. Because of how frequently people use their cards for shopping, they are often highly targeted for fraud, especially during the holidays. Here are some considerations to help protect you when using cards as your preferred payment method.


1. Protect Your PIN

Every debit and credit card has an associated Personal Identification Number (PIN) that is either randomly assigned or chosen by the cardholder. Most people don’t realize that credit cards also have a PIN, which can be used to perform a cash advance at an ATM. A PIN serves as a complete authorization to spend or withdraw money with limited or zero fraud protection. For this reason, it’s important to not share your PIN with anyone, to not keep it written down in your wallet, and to make sure it’s difficult to guess. Some of the easiest PINs to guess are the last four digits of a cardholder’s phone number, the last four digits of their SSN, their address, or their birthday (month and year).


2. Digital and Mobile Payment Services

When shopping online, digital payment services such as Visa Checkout or PayPal provide an extra layer of protection between your card information and the payee. When you initiate a payment using a digital payment service, your card information is not shared and a one-time transaction code is generated to authorize the payment. This limits the exposure of your card number and minimizes the risk of it being stolen. This is similar for mobile payment applications you might use in-store, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay. Your card information is protected and a digital card number is generated for the transactions you perform, protecting your card information from being skimmed at payment terminals. For more information, check out this article by The Balance.


3. Are Credit or Debit Cards More Secure?

Believe it or not, credit and debit cards generally share nearly identical levels of security. One reason people tend to assume debit cards are less secure is that transactions with a debit card are more likely to be performed using a PIN. When a PIN is used, there is a risk of the PIN being exposed and this can present additional risks due to the limited ability to recover stolen funds. When a fraudulent transaction is performed without a PIN, cardholders can dispute the transaction and in most cases they will receive their money back, regardless of whether it was on a debit or credit card. One consideration is that even if you are likely to get back money that was stolen, debit cards spend money directly from your account, so it could cause some cash flow issues while you wait for your money to be refunded. When fraudulent transactions are performed on a credit card, you are more likely to recover the funds in the form of a credit to your balance before you ever have to make a payment on it. This can serve as a buffer and may prevent short-term financial hardship.


For more information about credit and debit safety, visit our Visa Security page.