April 9, 2013

Guest Post: Debit Card Safety Tips for Teens


No doubt about it: one of the best things about your checking account is the free debit card that comes with it. You can use it to buy things both in person and online, and, in many ways, it’s a lot more convenient than cash. Your Triangle Credit Union debit card even comes with Purchase Rewards, which give you the opportunity to earn cash back on the stuff you buy anyway. However, it’s important to know that using any debit card comes with its own set of risks, and you need to know what they are to protect yourself from fraud. The good news? Most types of fraud are easily preventable. Don’t let a careless mistake separate you from your hard-earned cash. Here are five simple strategies for using your debit card safely and protecting yourself in case of an emergency.

Report Loss or Theft Immediately

If you misplace your debit card, or somebody takes it, call Triangle Credit Union’s TARA system and report it immediately. By federal law, if your debit card gets lost or stolen, you’ll need to report it within 48 hours, otherwise your might be liable for unauthorized charges made to your card. The longer you wait, the more you’ll potentially have to pay. It’s also good to keep your excess cash in a savings account. It’ll earn interest that way, and it’s less vulnerable to theft.

Protect Your PIN

Your debit card isn’t truly secure unless you keep your PIN protected. Don’t share it with anyone, not even your friends or family. When entering your PIN at the ATM or store checkout terminal, always shield the keypad with your hand. That way, no one can see what you’re doing.

Check Your Account Statement Regularly

You should be reviewing your account statement as often as possible. It’s the only way to know if anyone’s made a transaction without your consent. On a more positive note, it’s a great way to keep track of your spending habits, too. Checking your account statement is really easy if you’re signed up for online banking; you can log in and, in addition to viewing your most recent statement, you’ll also see a complete list of recent transactions. Triangle Credit Union even makes it easy to keep track of all your accounts (even ones at different institutions) with FinanceWorks. If you receive paper statements in the mail, shred them before you put them in the recycling bin.

Stay Alert at the ATM

Thieves target ATMs in a variety of ways. This may be as simple as waiting to mug someone who isn’t paying attention, but tech-savvy thieves have been known to place hidden cameras or skimmers on ATMs. Skimmers are electronic devices that take information from your card’s magnetic strip when you swipe your card, and they’re difficult to detect. If something about your ATM looks weird or “off”, hit cancel and get your cash somewhere else. When possible, use an ATM that’s located inside an open business, and avoid using street ATMs at night. If you’re at a drive-thru ATM, keep your doors locked and your engine running while you’re making your transaction.

Keep Your Card in a Safe Place

This might sound obvious, but it’s important: your debit card belongs in your wallet. It’s tempting to carelessly throw it into your jacket pocket after you use it. However, by doing this, you’re setting yourself up to misplace it, and it’s just not worth the risk. You might forget it’s there, or worse, it might fall out. Take that extra moment to put your card back where it belongs.


Laura Edgar, NerdWallet



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