In terms of the recent data breaches, the data thieves were likely motivated by money. With credit and debit card information for tens of millions of cards, they could buy items with the credit cards and drain cash out of people’s accounts with the debit cards prior to being found out.
While, as a consumer, you won’t ultimately be held responsible for false charges on your account from a breach, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be free from any effort associated with the losses. While your card company probably had fraud monitoring capabilities that blocked much of the thieves’ charging, if your account did get wrongly charged, you still have to make sure it gets cleaned up.
When Credit Beats Debit
Cases like these — in which people’s card information gets stolen and used for nefarious purposes — illustrates one way that credit cards clearly beat debit cards. If you were shopping with a credit card during a data breach, all it would likely take is one phone call to your card company to get the charges reversed and the card replaced. In some cases, card issuers have been proactively replacing cards that were used during the breach window.
If, on the other hand, you were shopping with a debit card, it gets a bit more challenging. You must contact the financial institution that issued your debit card within two days of noticing the theft, to be covered by its maximum guarantee. If the money came out of your checking account, your financial institution generally has 10 days to investigate the theft before deciding whether it has to refund the money.
That’s 10 days after you report that your cash is missing from your account. That’s potentially 10 days of bounced checks, late payments, overdraft fees, returned check fees and all the other personal headaches associated with not having your money in your account.
Still, Be Responsible With Credit
While credit cards are safer than debit cards when it comes to the fairly rare event of fraud, they can still be financially dangerous tools in everyday use. If you are going to use credit cards, be smart with them. Pay off your balance in full every month to avoid interest charges. You might even want to act like the money is coming directly out of your checking account as if it were a debit card by deducting it from your checkbook with each transaction. That way, you’ll know how much you really have available to spend on everything else to reduce your risk of overspending.
As recent data breaches remind us, our digitally interconnected world can be a dangerous place for you and your money. While you can’t eliminate all financial risk from your life, you can mitigate the damage by staying vigilant and on top of your spending — no matter how you spend your money.
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Article Source: Chuck Saletta of The Daily Finance