It’s time to go shopping for holiday gifts! You may be thinking this is a great time to rack up some great rewards on your credit cards, and it can be–if you use them safely. Many times during the hustle and bustle of the season we forget to really practice using our credit cards safely, and we set ourselves up for some sticky situations. Here are a few reminders about how to handle credit cards this time of year.
Online Shopping Hazards
These days some people opt to shop solely online, especially for Christmas gifts. If you don’t like big crowded stores, or you don’t have time to spend going all over town to buy gifts, online shopping can be great! Just make sure you are shopping on a website that you know and trust when you are making purchases. If the web address has “https” at the beginning, you know it is a verified and secured site that can be trusted. If it doesn’t have an “s” on the end, you probably shouldn’t purchase from them.
If entering your credit card information online makes you a little antsy, a safer (and easier) way to purchase on the internet would be to use a third party like PayPal. When you use a trusted third party, you don’t have to enter your card information on every site you purchase from, and you have some protection if something were to go wrong with your transaction.
If you do enter your card information on the store’s site, don’t choose to store it there for your next purchase. It may be tempting, especially if you shop there often, but if that site gets hacked, your credit card information goes along with it–which opens you up to identity theft.
Another tip for the holiday season is to pick one credit card to use for holiday purchases, and leave the rest at home. Carrying one card is safer than having a wallet full of them. If your wallet or handbag gets snatched, you only have to worry about canceling one card instead of several. Carrying one card also ensures that you won’t be able to overspend and rack up lots of debt on several different cards. It also helps you track your holiday spending if you have every purchase in one location.
Caution: Store Cards
When you head to the check out at your favorite store, you will probably be asked to open a store card for an extra discount. Many times those discounts are significant, which makes the credit card offer very tempting. However, be very wary of the store credit cards as they can carry hefty interest rates if you don’t pay them off in full. This is one of those situations where if you can be responsible and pay it off completely every month, it may be worth the discount. However, if you have a balance left over for the next month, the interest charge alone practically cancels out the initial discount you got on your purchase.
Track, Track, Track
When using credit cards for lots of purchases over the holidays, it’s important to track everything you spend. Yes, you will get a statement later with details, but keep a record for yourself as well. If you have tracked every purchase, when you get the statement you can see if everything is correct or if there is a discrepancy. Also, keeping a record of your spending on your card will ensure you don’t go over your credit limit by telling you how much you have left on your card to spend. Finally, it’s just good practice to keep track of your spending, not just on holiday gifts, but every day. It’s very easy to rack up debt when you are just swiping a card. Keeping a log of your purchases will help you make sure you stay within your financial budget.
These are just a few reminders of ways to stay safe with credit card usage over the holidays. If you are smart with your card this season, you won’t be in a bind when the new year rolls around.