So many companies and shops prefer debit card payments these days, so it can be incredibly handy to have your debit card to help you pay for items, but it can be worrying to have your debit card on you at all times. There are a lot of horror stories out there about people losing their debit cards. Let’s look at whether or not you should carry your debit card on your person – and what to do if something happens and your card ends up in the wrong hands.
What are the risks of carrying my debit cards?
The risks of carrying your debit card should be rather familiar to all of us. The biggest risk is that your debit card could end up in someone else’s hands.
Of course, this can happen in two ways – either someone might intentionally steal your debit card, or you could lose it and someone else might find it. Either way, once one of your debit cards is in someone else’s hands – whether it was stolen or picked up after you lost it – your bank account could be at risk.
Can someone use my debit card to access my bank account?
If someone else has your card, you may worry that they will access your bank account. However, most bank accounts will only let someone access the account with ID or other information. However, you should consider this a risk in case the thief has other ways to get your details.
Can someone use my debit card to withdraw cash?
Again, most bank accounts and checking accounts will require other information to let people access your funds at an ATM. For example, if someone with your debit card wants to withdraw cash at an ATM, they will often need your PIN number. However, you should be aware that this may not always be the case, and someone with your debit card may have a way to withdraw your money.
What about contactless payments?
Since contactless payment has become more common, the issue of stolen debit cards is more of a concern. You can now use contactless payments in a wide range of locations such as retail stores. This means that someone with your debit card can make these unauthorized transactions on your cards. However, there is usually a limit to the value of these transactions, which can limit the amount of harm that can be done if someone gets hold of your card – though even small purchases can add up and can cause serious financial trouble to most people – especially if each small amount adds up to put you overdrawn, as you could end up paying interest on the amount.
Will I be at risk of identity theft?
Identity theft can be a major concern for anyone who has lost a debit card or credit card. Some people think that you can only have your identity taken if someone gets your social security card and tax return, but this is not the case – identity thieves can use almost any information to help them take your identity and use get control of your bank accounts. However, usually, they will need additional information to steal your identity. This can be a big problem if your entire wallet is missing or stolen, as a lot of people keep a lot of identifying information in their wallets.
If possible, you should make sure that your wallet has as little identifying information in it as possible, to lower the risk of identity theft. For example, you should always make sure that your social security card is not in your wallet or easily accessible. This means that you should not have your social security number in your wallet at all – even having those nine digits on a piece of paper is too obvious for people who want to steal your identity. Even deposit slips, a medicare card, receipts, or membership cards can give someone more information to commit identity fraud.
What do I do if I lose my card?
By now it should be pretty clear that losing your card – or having it stolen – can cause a range of risks, or at the very least it can be a major inconvenience. So, what should you do if you lose your card?
The first thing to do when you lose either a debit card or credit card, or your whole wallet, is to contact your bank or credit card companies to make sure that the cards are canceled. This means that they can stop any payments from going out on that card. This may be inconvenient if you misplace your card and then find it safe and sound inside your wallet, handbag, or a trouser pocket, however, you should always be sure to cancel your cards even if you think you may have just misplaced them – this means that there is less chance of anyone stealing your money, and this is far more important than the slight inconvenience of waiting for a new card to be issued.
Of course, you should make sure that you always contact the correct banks for your cards – there are lots of phishing scams out there that you should be aware of as well.
If you think your wallet or cards have been stolen, you should make sure to file a police report as well. It is often unusual to have a wallet recovered by the police, but there is a chance that someone will hand it in if it has been lost. However, reporting this to the police is also important for increasing the chance that your bank or credit card company can help recover any fund that were taken – remember that federal law limits liability in cases where a debit card or credit card is stolen – and this is the case with most cards.
It is vital that you report stolen credit cards or debit cards as soon as possible. If there are extenuating circumstances for why you can’t report the theft – for example, if you are in hospital – you may have more leeway on reporting it, but you should still report it as quickly as you can. You should also report the suspected crime to your insurance company if this is covered by them.
When do I need my debit card?
It might seem like the simplest way to avoid having your debit cards or credit cards end up in the wrong hands is by simply never carrying it. However, there are some times, and some events, where you may need to have a credit or debit card on hand. During these times, you cannot really avoid having a card, but you can try to limit the risk of having your card taken. First, let’s look at some of the events where you may need a card.
While in previous years outdoor events would be cash-only, these days it is more common to find outdoor events that have wireless payment options. In fact, these days a lot of outdoor events may not have vendors that accept cash – this is due to a couple of different factors. For example, there is the difficulty keeping a clean environment if cash is used, which is especially a concern for food vendors. A lot of outdoor vendors or events also do not want to have to carry a large amount of change, which means that they may not accept cash payments. It is always important to check whether or not you can pay with cash or whether you will need to carry a card at events – always check beforehand, because if you do need cash, you want to withdraw it well ahead of time.
If you want to make a large payment, you may also prefer to have one of your credit cards to keep in your wallet. A large amount of cash can be appealing the thieves, especially if they notice it. Having just one credit card in your wallet can be a lot less obvious and can make you less of a target to would-be thieves.
Some public transport has moved to only taking contactless card payment. You should make sure whether or not you can pay for public transport with debit cards. This is especially important if you are visiting a new city or a new area where you do not know if you can use paper money or coins when paying for transport.
How can I protect my debit card?
There are many ways to protect your debit card if you do intend to carry it around. While none of these methods are flawless, anything that makes it easier to keep your card safe is worth trying in order to prevent any inconvenience.
Know where your card is at all times
This may seem like an obvious tip, but it is important to make sure that you know where your card is at all times. If you keep track of your card, you can make sure that you know immediately if it goes missing. Being aware of it can also help make you notice if someone is trying to steal it. You should be careful and alert wherever you are – thieves are just as likely to loiter around outside a fancy restaurant as a gas station, so you need to be careful wherever you are.
Decide if it is best in your wallet or out
There may be times when you feel like it is best to not keep it in your wallet. This can include times when you have been warned about pickpockets or an increased risk of theft. This can help make sure that even if someone steals your wallet – and everything that you keep in your wallet – they might not get your debit cards. For example, you may want to make sure that your debit card is in an internal pocket, inside a zipped portion of your handbag, or in another location that is harder to access. Alternatively, if you are visiting somewhere, you may be able to leave your debit card out of sight inside your car, and simply go back to your car if you need it at some point during the day.
Limit your debit card amount
No matter how careful you are, there is still a risk that your card could end up missing and it could end up in the hands of someone who wants to use it. A good way to limit the problems that could arise from this is to limit the amount in the checking account linked to your card. This means that instead of losing your entire month’s worth of funds, you would only lose the balance on your card. One way that some people manage this is to have their paycheck go into an account, and then funnel a week’s worth of funds into the account of their card, meaning that they will never have too much at risk at any one time.
Set up mobile alerts
You can also set up payment alters when you go over a certain amount if you use mobile phone banking, which can help to alert you when a card is used. This may become annoying to some people as it will alert you when you make payments, but it can also be very helpful if you do not realize that your card is missing until it is used – which can be a very real possibility if you just leave your card in your wallet between when you use it. Seeing these purchases can help you stop fraud before it gets too far.
Use mobile banking and mobile wallets
If you are worried about the risks from carrying around your physical card, you can look at other options such as a digital wallet. A lot of mobile phones now allow you to add your card details onto them, and allow you to complete a transaction via your phone. This means that you would not need to have your card with you. However, this is again not flawless. Phones only allow you to do contactless payments, so you would not be able to shop or a business that does not have contactless payment set up. There is also a risk that your phone could be taken and used, just like your card. While most mobile wallets are protected by a pin code and potentially fingerprint recognition, there are still a number of ways that people can get around these security measures to use your mobile wallet for their own personal gain.
What about a credit card?
Carrying a credit card and losing it can have many of the same concerns as a debit card. Most credit cards are protected by the same anti-fraud measures that debit cards have. Credit cards also often have good protection from the companies you have the credit cards with, meaning you should get good customer support if anything bad happens.
Credit cards also have some additional benefits that might appeal more – for example, cashback, air miles, or other rewards based on your spending. However, you should still be safe – do not carry two credit cards if one will suffice, be careful to make sure that you are aware of your surroundings, and try not to have other personally identifiable information that you keep in your wallet, such as your driver’s license.
Is carrying money much safer?
Carrying money can still be a risk, but the risk is limited by how much money you carry on your person at any time – simply put, someone can only steal the amount of money that you have. Walking around with far more money than you need is likely to cause a bigger loss – never walk around with a whole month’s wages in your wallet. Instead, you should try to calculate the things you will want to purchase during a specific outing, and only take that amount of money, plus a bit of extra in case things cost more than expected, or if you want to make an additional purchase. This can also be a great way to help you stick to a budget, and can help you reinforce any finance mantras about sticking to a spending amount.
What are the safest debit cards to have?
Generally, financial institutions such as banks, credit card companies and building societies all have to follow the same rules set out by law. This means that no company should be much less safe than others. However, you may want to consider that some companies may have better customer services than others – you might find that if the worst does happen and your card gets taken, you would want to be with a bank that takes your concern seriously and helps make sure that your details are safe and your money is protected as quickly as possible. It is always worth checking out reviews of banks, building societies and credit card companies online before choosing a financial institution to go with – especially reviews about customer support and customer service.
How safe is my handbag or pocket?
Very few of us walk around with our wallets in our hands – in fact, advice if often suggesting to avoid having your wallet in your hand as this can prove to be an enticing target to muggers. But how safe is anywhere else that we can carry it?
The most likely place for someone to carry a wallet or card is a pocket, but not all pockets are created equal. Firstly, pockets on the rear of trousers are often a bad location to keep a wallet or debit card – anything behind you means that someone can sneak up on you or approach in a crowd without you noticing until it is too late – and quite often that means not noticing until you are home or at a shop and need your card. Next, you should make sure that the pocket you carry your card in is big enough. A lot of pockets – especially pockets on slim-cut trousers – can be too small for almost any wallet. Keeping your wallet in a pocket where it is sticking out makes it a very appealing target to pickpockets, or of course it just increases the chance that it might drop out without you noticing. If you want to keep your card or wallet in your pocket, you should use an internal pocket if possible, or an external pocket with a zip or button fastening – while these will not guarantee that your card is not stolen, they can make you a more difficult target to pickpockets, and this can means that you get ignored in favor of an easier target.
Handbags are likewise not all safe. A handbag might seem safer, but there is a reason that bag-snatching is a real threat. While people may not be able to get your wallet out of your handbag as easily as they can get it out of a pocket, some people will just take the bag. Having a bag with a strap that goes across your body makes it harder to snatch. A bag with a sturdy strap will also lower the chance that someone will cut your strap in order to get to your bag. As with pockets, you should always make sure that your bad is fastened properly, ideally with a zip or another fastening that covers the entire opening of the bag – compared to a bag that only fastens at one point, this makes it harder to remove an item from.
Carry your card with care
Ultimately, there are risks when taking your card or any money out and about. However, the best way to address this is to be careful and be aware of your surroundings. There will always be a risk and sometimes people will still lose their cards or have them stolen even if they do everything right. However, we can aim to minimize this.
It is also vital to make sure that you know what to do if your card is compromised – be sure to cancel any cards you have and contact your bank, as well as file a report with the police if relevant. It is always also a great idea to minimise the personal information that someone can get about you, as this can help to lessen the risk of identity theft.