Ten Ways to Keep Your Credit Safe

Susan Weber
Avoiding identity theft is a key safety step.
Avoiding identity theft is a key safety step.

Before you step out with your credit card, take a few minutes to discover ten ways to keep your credit safe. Your credit card interest rate and your ability to obtain new credit can be affected by your credit's safety.

Credit Safety Starts with You

If you have a credit card you have probably worked hard to establish a good credit history. Staying under your credit limit and paying your credit card bill on time are key starting points for building good credit. Your credit score will probably continue to rise if you use your card wisely and pay your credit card bill on time. However, your credit score can quickly reverse if you become a careless credit user or if you are a victim of identify theft. Keeping your credit safe just requires you to form a few safety-inducing habits.

Ten Ways to Keep Your Credit Safe

1. Be aware of your surroundings when using your credit card. Watch to make sure no one copies down your card number when you give your card to a salesperson, a waiter, bartender or service provider such as a taxi driver. Be particularly aware of anyone who swipes your card twice, since one of the swipes could be through a skimmer. The skimmer looks like a small knife sharpener and is easy to pull out of a pocket and swipe your credit card. Once your card is swiped through a skimmer your account number can be used by another person.

2. Double check the amount you are charged before you leave the merchant. Make sure you aren't charged twice or charged for something you didn't purchase. Take your receipt with you. Review your statement each month, comparing it against the receipts. Immediately file a merchant dispute with your card issuer if you are charged for something on your statement which you didn't order or receive.

3. Watch out for emails that request your credit card numbers, passwords, personal identification numbers or social security numbers. These emails may look very official and may include the logo of your bank or card issuer but they may be "phishing" for your personal information so that they can gain access to your credit card account or create a new account using your personal information.

4. Shop with a prepaid credit card instead of your credit card. A prepaid credit card helps you budget how much you want to spend, minimizing the chance of exceeding your credit limit, potentially harming your credit score.

5. Avoid loaning your credit card to someone else. Unauthorized purchases can push your balance over your credit limit which can harm your credit history.

6. Pay close attention to your credit card statement. It can be your first defense against identity theft. Dispute any charges which are not yours. Pay your bill on time. Shred any old bills or credit card receipts.

7. Review your credit report frequently. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. You can keep track of your credit history throughout the year if you rotate your requests between the credit bureaus, requesting a report from one of the bureaus about every four months. Be sure to report any errors to the credit bureau.

8. Use prepaid credit cards for foreign travel. Consider leaving most of your credit cards home when you travel. You can purchase prepaid credit cards to access your travel budget. Prepaid cards will help you stay within budget and you won't have any concerns about spending over your credit line.

9. Add your photo to your credit card. Ask your card issuer if they provide this safety feature.

10. Sign up for a credit monitoring service. Services like Citi Credit Monitoring and LifeLock will set up alert systems to inform you when there are changes on your credit history such as new account openings. Early alerts are an important step in minimizing credit card fraud and identity theft.

Be Vigilant

There are more than ten ways to keep your credit safe. In fact, there are probably hundreds. The important thing to remember is that you need to be vigilant, always keeping an eye on your card, your statement and your credit history.

Ten Ways to Keep Your Credit Safe