How to Protect Your Credit Card Number

by AJ Pettersen · 12 comments

Credit card numbers

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had an unpleasant call from Visa cardmember services. They informed us that our credit card number may have been stolen and that we needed to call them immediately. After being connected, the representative asked me if I had made any purchases in Mexico recently. I replied that I hadn’t and told him I found the whole situation pretty crazy. His response? “It happens every day.”

The fact that Visa has representatives to deal solely with stolen credit cards means you need to pay attention. Numbers get stolen all the time, and while you should be able to recoup any lost funds, the process can still be a headache. To avoid getting your card stolen as my wife and I did, follow these tips.

Use Caution Online

The world is becoming smaller and smaller, and you can buy nearly anything you need online. This is wildly convenient, but it can also be wildly dangerous. You need to be careful about where you’re submitting your credit card number. Consider shopping at larger sites, which offer stronger security, or using services like Paypal to help keep your money safe.

I have reason to believe an online purchase is what caused my number to be stolen. After speaking with the representative, I learned where the first test purchase was made from. It was in the same state as a recent online purchase I had made. I probably should’ve checked with the company more closely before buying their products over the internet.

Write “See ID”

In many stores, the cashier will check to make sure that your card is signed on the back. My mom taught me that writing “see ID” on the back of the card will sometimes cause a thief to be caught. This is a simple thing you can do that will help you if your physical card is stolen.

This can get tricky because some places don’t check cards. Other places only require a signature for purchases over a certain amount. For example, Target only requires a signature if you spend more than $50. This method, therefore, isn’t foolproof, but every little bit helps.

Keep an Eye on Purchases

Visa did a great job recognizing phony purchases on our card in Mexico. Some may not be so lucky. If you don’t track the purchases made on your card and it’s stolen, you may end up with a number of charges you didn’t make. If you spot something out of the ordinary on your credit card, you should report it immediately. By doing so, you can stop the problem earlier — rather than trying to get things sorted out later.

Protect Yourself

Having a credit card stolen is a hassle. You need to shred your old cards and order new ones. By monitoring online purchases, marking your card correctly, and checking your account frequently, you can avoid a lot of headaches.

How do you protect your credit card number?

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current AT&T DSL and U-VERSE promotion codes and promos and see if you can save more money every month from now on.

{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Financial Planner Orange County says:

    The biggest drawback of using a credit card is the risk of credit card fraud. Nowadays many of us doing most of our shopping and banking on the web with our account numbers and passwords floating around, so it’s easy for someone to nab our information. We should always check our financial statements regularly, change passwords atleast every month and keeping an eye out for any unfamiliar activity.

  • Property Marbella says:

    Get a special credit card that is only for online purchases and transfers to this card only exact amount when you buy something from your normal credit card. Also, have a special credit card when you are traveling which has a maximum withdrawal amount.

  • Tim says:

    Bank of America has a feature called “Shop Safe” that allows generating a unique card number with a specific spending limit and an expiration date (minimum 2 months). I use this for any online purchase at lesser-known sites.

    Discover has a similar feature, but you can’t specify the credit limit of the card number you generate. However, I believe the number is good for one use only, so you are still protected from it being used after your authorized purchase.

  • Katherine says:

    I used to write checks at the grocery store way back when then switched to a debit card when my bank offered me one. I thought it was the best thing going – no more checkbook. Over the years though I’ve decided that it’s much safer to use a credit card instead because if someone did get my number the money wouldn’t be coming out of my checking account. That’s way more of a problem to fix than a charge on your card plus the fact that you may need that money to pay bills. It takes a while to get it credited back.

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup says:

    It is all about virtual numbers and just paying attention to your account. If I don’t recall the purchase, I call.

  • Educators Credit Union says:

    Its very scary that this happens everyday, and so much everyday that credit card companies need a whole department to address the issues. Thanks for the great tips!

  • Daniel H says:

    I agree with many of the commenters above, especially with Annie. I usually generate virtual numbers to make purchases on any online store, with the exception of, if PayPal option is not available. These virtual number can be generated with the desired limit and expiration date as well.

  • Dona Collins says:

    What a scary situation!

    I had two thoughts. First, writing “Ask for ID” is virtually useless. Almost every store I go to allows you to swipe a card without asking, and if they do ask they almost always look right at the card and do not ask for the ID. I also once had a post office member tell me that it was illegal to write that on the card and that she wouldn’t take my card without the signature. I now have my signature AND the “ask for ID” mark on my card.

    Years ago, I had a credit card with an interesting feature. If you were making an online purchase, you could go on their website, type in the estimated amount, and get a “temporary card number” that you could use one-time. It was like a throw-away number you could use to protect your real number. Does anyone offer that service these days?

  • KM says:

    I had this happen to me once. I was living in Africa at the time and I informed my bank before I left which countries I will be living and travelling in so that they don’t block my card. I also appointed my mom as my power of attorney so she could handle things more easily than me over a long distance call – this part saved me. I got a call from the bank saying that my card has been used in various convenience stores around southeast US and they had a note that I was living overseas. I confirmed that it wasn’t me and I still had my only card, to which they replied that it must have been copied. I was surprised by that because I only give my number out to trustable companies (Amazon, Paypal, etc.) and don’t shop at sketchy places, so I guess it really can happen to anyone.

    The overseas part turned out rather difficult though because my mom had to send me a new card, which took forever, and I ended up having to travel to renew my visa at the same time without a working card. My mom was able to withdraw from my account though and send me some money with Western Union, but it was a major pain in the butt.

    I learned a few things from this though: 1) I now check my card out every time I get it back from a merchant to make sure it’s the same card and I have not been given a copy (it’s easier with my credit card now because I have a unique custom picture), 2) I write “See ID” on the back of my card, just in case, 3) always leave a power of attorney with someone stateside if you leave the country, and 4) my mom is awesome (ok, I knew that one before, but still). Now I have a credit card in addition to the debit card, so I should always have a backup if something like this happens again.

  • Christian L. says:

    Whenever I make online purchases, I opt for PayPal if I can. It’s a fast and trusted way to shop online. Granted nothing is 100 percent safe/protected, but I give PayPal the benefit of the doubt.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  • Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle says:

    Having more than one credit card is essential in case a card is compromised – especially when you are travelling.

    I have a Visa with a small credit limit that my sons and I use for all online purchases. It is easy to see what is going on and if it is compromised we each have other cards to use.

  • annie g says:

    Many credit cards allow you to use special numbers that are either one use or one company. For example, each of my recurring bills that charge to my credit card have their own numbers that can’t be used elsewhere. When we shop online, we also use these numbers. This is an essential way to protect your number.

    When possible, pay at restaurants with cash or gift cards, especially at new locations.

    Be sure to protect your debit card which may give you less protection from fraudulent charges than your credit card.

    Check if your credit cards allow you to get email or texts when purchases over a certain amount are made.

Leave a Comment