Tips for Safe Credit Card Use

Take these precautions to protect your credit card account and prevent identity theft.

If you have a credit card, it's important to take precautions when using it to keep yourself from falling into credit card debt and from becoming the victim of credit card fraud. Follow these tips to protect yourself when using credit cards:  

Send your creditors a change of address when you move. Many creditors provide change of address boxes on their monthly bills. For your other creditors, you can send a letter, call the customer service phone number, or use a post office change of address post card. Don’t let your monthly statements go to your old address. You may miss making payments on time, or someone may steal your statement and use your identifying information to gain access to your account or obtain credit in your name.  

If you need an increase in your credit limit, ask for it. Some creditors will close accounts on customers who exceed their credit limits. But pay close attention: If you’re charging to the limit on your credit card, you may be heading for financial trouble.  

Take steps to protect your cards. Sign your cards as soon as they arrive. If you have a personal identification number (PIN) that allows you to take cash advances, memorize it -- never write it down near your credit card. Make a list of your credit card issuers, the account numbers, and the issuer’s phone numbers so you can quickly call if you need to report a lost or stolen card.  

Don’t give your credit card or checking account number to anyone over the phone unless you placed the call and are certain of the company’s reputation. Never give your credit card or checking account number to someone who calls you and tries to sell you something or claims to need your account number to send you a “prize” or verify your account. Likewise, never give your credit card number, checking account number, or personal information to a caller who says that he or she represents a firm you do business with and needs to confirm or update your account information. The same is true for Internet inquiries like this. All of these are scams.  

For articles on shopping a credit card, understanding credit card terms, disputing credit card charges, and more, visit our Banking & Credit Cards topic area.  

Excerpted from Credit Repair, by Margaret Reiter and Robin Leonard (Nolo).

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