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Are debit cards safe to use online?

Debit cards are generally safe to use online; however, there are still several precautions you should take to help ensure your transactions are as secure as possible.

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What are debit cards and how do they work?

Debit cards and rewards debit cards are a type of banking card that is typically connected to a checking account held at a credit union, bank, or other financial institution.
A debit card is convenient to have because it pulls money directly from your account, thus providing you with access to your money at ATMs across the U.S. and around the world.
Direct access to your cash means you’ll need to take extra care of your debit card so that it’s not lost or stolen.

How to keep your online transactions safe

Keep your transactions safe by following these tips:
Check your accounts and statements often. Check your account activity weekly to see if there are purchases or withdrawals not made by you. Report any unusual activity to your financial institution immediately.
Protect your PIN. Your PIN (personal identification number) is the key to using your debit card to access your bank accounts. Never give your PIN to a stranger or random caller, or anyone you don’t know or trust. Do not carry your PIN in your wallet with your debit card.
Consider using a credit card online. While debit cards have secure features, for added security considering using a credit card to make online purchases. Using a credit card can even earn you reward points from your bank.
Avoid public networks. Public internet networks at coffee shops, airports, and other public places may be where account hackers place devices that can intercept your debit card information if you go online to make a transaction.
Use a strong password. Creating a complex password helps further secure your debit card.
Use secure websites. A secure website is one that has a URL that begins with “https” rather than “http.”
Watch out for phishing attacks. Phishing involves a cybersecurity scam where the attacker sends an email that appears to be from a trusted source but is not. It can also take the form of a fake website or account login page that appears to be legitimate but is not.
Save all online records and receipts. Keeping your records and receipts for a reasonable amount of time, at least until your next account statement, makes sense so you can closely review your transactions for accuracy.

What consumer protections do debit cards offer?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, if your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, federal law limits your liability for charges made without your permission, but your protection depends on the type of card—and when you report the loss. We’ll discuss these protections further in the next section.

What to do if your debit card is lost or stolen

If your debit card is stolen, you should report it to your financial institution immediately so the card can be deactivated. A new card will be issued to you with a new number. If your debit card is lost outside of your home, you may request that the card be deactivated. If you think your card is misplaced in your home or car, you can call the financial institution to ask that the card be temporarily frozen to prevent charges from going through. Using your financial institution’s mobile app or online banking platform you can “freeze” the card yourself and unfreeze the debit card when you find it.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, if you report your card’s loss before someone uses it you aren’t responsible for any transactions you didn’t authorize.

What to do if only your debit card number was stolen

If your debit card number is stolen by a hacker or through use of an unsecured internet connection, report this to your financial institution as soon as you become aware of the theft.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, you aren’t responsible for any transactions you didn’t authorize if you reported the loss within 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you.

Debit card vs. credit card: which is safer to use online?

Because debit cards withdraw money from your checking account, a criminal who gets your account information or PIN could empty your account. For this reason, credit cards are considered safer to use online because funds aren't directly taken out of your accounts. Using a credit card provides peace of mind so you don't have to worry about your entire checking account being drained if it’s hacked or becomes compromised.

Should you use a debit card online?

Using a credit card online to make purchases from home or a secure internet connection is generally safe, but you should always keep the above precautions in mind. However, if you have available credit then using a credit card is a safer choice.
Furthermore, be aware that if you do not have sufficient funds in your checking account to pay for the debit card purchase, the charge may be declined, and your financial institution may charge you an “insufficient funds fee.”
If you decide to use a credit card for online purchases, be sure you have the funds to pay your bill before it accrues any interest. Otherwise, you could end up with high-interest credit card debt.

Why savvy consumers choose CU SoCal

For over 60 years CU SoCal has been providing financial services, including mortgages, Home Equity Loans, HELOCs, car loans, personal loans, credit cards, and other banking products, to those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.
Please give us a call today at 866.287.6225 today to schedule a no-obligation loan consultation with a CU SoCal Member Services specialist.

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Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal) is a leading financial institution empowering those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County to reach their goals and build strong financial futures. CU SoCal provides access to convenient money management services and offers competitive rates and flexible terms on auto loans, mortgages, and VISA credit cards—turning wishing and waiting into achieving and doing.


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