Protect Your Credit Card Number from Service Staff

How to Protect Your Finances

Did you know that hundreds of thousands of dollars are stolen annually by service staff? These staff members are using credit card numbers like yours and mine to walk off with a fortune. By service staff, I am referring to people such as waiters, waitresses, car wash staff, gas service cashiers, grocery store clerks and more. Each time you pay with your credit card, you are running a risk of having your information stolen. It's simple. It's quick. Most frightening of all, it's easy.

Review the Receipt

Review your receipt that you are signing. Some places are still using older credit card processing machines that print out the entire credit card number. This means that anyone that has access to those receipts can write down your credit card information to go shopping on the Internet, add additional tip amount or do as they please. If the entire number is printed on the receipt, scratch out all but the last four or five digits.

I was told by a gas station clerk that she needed that number should there be an error with their credit received statements from the credit card companies. They have to have the receipts in order to know how to charge again and to track the purchases. This is true. However, the last four or five digits of the credit card number is all that they need to do this. Remember, as soon as your credit card goes through their machine the transaction is live. It is already credited to the company and deducted from your account. They do not need the entire number. They are not supposed to print the entire number on the receipt.

Write Down Your Expenditures

There are many of us that know approximately how much we spent on gas, soda, a meal and so forth. We know roughly how much the expenditure is and how close we are to our credit limit. With things being so hectic, many people just glance over their credit card statements. You would never notice that someone added a few extra dollars here and there on your credit card. Write down the amounts. Keep receipts in an envelope to compare to the statement amounts.

I started keeping track of my expenditures at that gas station. I'm glad that I did because that following month's statement had anywhere from $1 to $3 additional amounts added to my credit card. Evidently the employee was correcting the charge and not putting the money in the cash register? I'm not sure how it operates but I know she is no longer working there and I am no longer shopping there. I took my receipts and my statement to the store owner and was refunded my money.

Source: Associated Content

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Budget Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt

One of the fastest growing problems among the younger generation is credit card debt. More and more individuals are living paycheck-to-paycheck and they have to bridge the gaps in their finances by using high interest credit cards. Credit card debt is certainly not fun and it's something that can quickly ruin any hopes and dreams of becoming financial secure in your financial future. Getting out of that debt isn't easy, though. It requires meticulous planning and the ability to both create and maintain a strict budget.

When most people hear the word budget, they get scared. A budget shouldn't be a scary thing, though. Every financially responsible individual operates on some sort of financial plan in order to make sure that their finances are going the right places. In a way, a budget lets you tell your money where to go instead of, at the end of the month, wondering where it went. Here are some tips on how to effectively set up a budget to get out of credit card debt.

Write it all down

Before anything else can be done, you have to understand exactly where you're at. Lay out all of your credit card debts on a table and get the facts. Even though the numbers might be ugly and scary, it is best if you understand exactly how much money needs to be paid off. Note the total balances, the minimum payment amounts, the interest rates, and the due dates on each credit card. Once you have this information, you can move forward with a proactive budget plan.

What can you eliminate?

There are two ways to increase the amount of money that you can give towards credit card payments. Either you can make more money or you can spend less money. Since it's unlikely that your employer is going to double your salary anytime soon, the more realistic option is to eliminate some expenses. Take a look at where your money is going and try to cut the fat on some things. Are you spending an exorbitant amount of money on entertainment items? If there are things in your current spending that can be eliminated, it's your job to find them and make sure that they are discontinued.

Every dollar accounted for

Take a few hours at the beginning of each month and pull up a spread sheet. On that sheet, make note of how much money is coming in and each expense you plan on funding. This includes food, healthcare, your other bills, and any school tuition. Basically, you need to account for every dollar that is going to be spent. Then, you can have a much better understanding of where the money is going. From there, it will be easy to chart out a plan of action that will enable you to pay off those credit cards sooner.

Be Realistic

You won't pay all of your credit cards off overnight or in a lump sum. Plan how much money you can possibly pay to the debts each month. Figure out how many months it will take to get the debts taken care of on your charted plan. From there, you can make any necessary changes to your budget to make paying off the debts as easy as possible.

Source: Credodebit

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Top Credit Cards for College Students

What Options There Are and What You Should Look for in a Card

One of the major components of a credit score is how long you've had a credit account; in the past, students often piggy-backed onto their parent's accounts, but recent changes to the formula require that individuals be the primary account holder. As a result, having a credit card as a college student can be not just a convenience and a valuable way to learn how to manage your money, but also is necessary to establish your credit and make it easier to rent apartments, buy your first car and so forth after college.

Before you start looking at which card is best, a few basics about credit cards. While it goes without saying that paying off your credit cards each month is a necessity to avoid debt and maintain the good credit score you're trying to establish, 80% of undergraduates do not do this and leave college with a few thousand dollars of debt. (For more figures, see Nellie Mae's most recent survey on Undergraduate Students and Credit Card usage given in 2004.)

A college student with no credit should not have to pay an annual fee, but will likely have a high APR. You should pay attention to this number because even if you plan to pay off the bill each month, you may slip up; so long as you pay it off the next month, don't worry. Credit cards, though, don't make money just on lending you money, but through late fees and 'over the limit' fees. As a student with a new account, you'll probably have a pretty low credit limit; that's a good thing since it probably corresponds to your bank account. (And mine...) However, the cards won't stop you from spending over that amount -- they'll just tack the charge on. So, monitor your spending.

Also, late fees can be easily avoided if you set up a monthly payment plan. You can either set one up to pay the minimum (thus protecting you from the possible overdraft fee, which then triggers a missed credit card fee...) or the full amount each month. By doing this, you insure that you never miss a payment and don't have to worry constantly about your monthly bill. If you set the card up to pay the minimum every month, you can also avoid the tricky due dates most credit cards employ -- the date changes each month. If the minimum is paid every month automatically, you can pay the full balance every month on a set day (the 15th) and won't have to worry about forgetting a payment, or only paying some of your bill.

Here's a selection of cards that will provide a good fit depending on what you're looking to get out of them. There are three major companies which offer student credit cards: CapitalOne, Citibank and Discover. Each of these has a number of cards to choose from, allowing you to choose a card that best matches your spending habits -- great both for racking up rewards and spending them.

Capital One Options

Capital One's Student card ("Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards for Students") gives you 1% cash back on purchases that you make -- and there's no limit on the cash back. In addition, they'll give you discounts when you shop through their portal, a limited time 0% APR on purchases and a 25% annual bonus on your reward. So if you spent $2000, earned a $20 reward they will give you an additional $5 at the end of the year. The catch is an annual fee ($29), though the variable APR is 16.4%. Should you get it? If you like cash back, consider both your spending habits and what sort of limit they'll give you. A $200 credit limit means you won't be able to spend enough money to get a reward that will pay for the annual fee.

Capital One's best feature is their "CardLab" where you can build your own card -- even if you are a student and have a limited history. Here, you set up what APR you want, rewards you're interested in and even a cool design. Should you get one? When you start plugging the numbers in, you find that because you're a student, your options are more limited. You can get a decent APR (15-16% range) and points back, but you'll have to pay a minimum fee. Their student cards are a better bet -- but keep it in mind for your next card.

Capital One has a number of cards targeted for students, but they also have a separate category for people who have little credit history, or ones that need improvement: CapitalOne Platinum. These do not come with rewards, but do offer you the standard benefits of a card: credit history, $0 liability for unauthorized purchases, a low interest rate (8.4% after the introductory 0% for 6 months), roadside assistance, travel insurance, etc. They also have lower credit limits (from $300-3000). Should you get one? If you want to see whether you can manage a card this might be for you. But it does carry a $39 annual fee and you can do better. But if you don't think you'll pay the balance off regularly, the APR can't be beat.

CitiCard Options

CitiCard offers 4 credit cards to students, giving you a wide range of choices. Their basic platinum card comes in two varieties: the basic card (0% introductory APR for 6 months, 12.5% variable APR, no annual fee, no rewards) and the Dividend Platinum Select (5% cash back at select stores for 6 months and 2% afterwards; $300 reward limit; 14.5% variable APR; no annual fee.) Both of these are available as Visa or MasterCards, but really that's a personal choice. Should you get one? The dividend card is worth looking at if you want cash back and you probably wouldn't spend enough money to go beyond the $300 limit. They do have options that will give you better rewards, though.

CitiCard offers an additional card, affiliated with MTV, called the "Citi mtvU Platinum Select Visa Card" which earns ThankYou points (Citi's rewards program which gives you gift certificates -- $100 for 10,000 points --, airline tickets -- domestic ticket for 25,000 points --, and even iPods, charitable contributions or statement credits). It rewards you both for good behavior (good GPA, paying your bill on time) and for going places college students go (bookstores, movie theaters, etc) as well as all your purchases. They also have special discounts with particular popular stores and specials coordinated with MTV. There's no annual fee, has a 14.49% variable APR, and a 0% APR for the first 6 months on transfers and purchases. Should you get one? This is the best student card out there. It gives you a chance to earn real rewards and also rewards you for the things you should be doing anyway (like paying your bill on time). In addition, their rewards program is consistently one of the top rated in the business.

CitiCard's other student card is called the "Driver's Edge" and has no annual fee, but a higher APR (16.49% variable). It comes with the ubiquitous 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 6 months. The main attraction is it gives you a 3% rebate on certain purchases and a 1% rebate on all purchases. Should you get it? If you're commuting and living off-campus this is a fine card, but think about where you shop most frequently -- the extra rebate probably isn't worth it unless you're spending quite a bit of money a month on basic necessities. But if you buy groceries for all your roommates, this is the card to get!

Discover Card Options

All Discover credit cards include Cashback Bonuses, which can total up to 20% of the amount of money you spend. To get these, you'll need to shop through their portal, which just adds an additional step to your browsing. Their student card offers the following features: popular purchases (i.e. gas, groceries, etc -- these usually rotate) earn 5% cashback bonus, every purchase earns a minimum of 1% cashback and the online purchases range from 5-20% for select online purchases. The APR is 16.99% (variable), after the introductory 0% for 6 months. The cashback bonus must be redeemed in increments of $20 and their FAQs do not say whether there is a yearly maximum so ask. Should you get it? Check out their list of online retailers first; if you don't shop there, or don't own a car their extra percentages will be useless. At the base 1% rate, you have to spend $2000 before you get the $20 payout.

If you commute by car frequently, they have a special "Open Road" card that rewards with 5% cashback bonus on gas and auto maintenance. The variable APR is 16.99% with a 6 month 0% APR rate if you have a big car repair coming up that you need to pay off slowly. Should you get it? Only if you're going to spend a significant amount of money on your car...and nothing else.

In short, students have more options than ever before as credit card companies realize they can make money off of you. If you're careful, you can work the rewards to your favor and never pay a cent in interest. Regardless, pay careful attention to how you spend your money. And try to save a little too.

Source: Associated Content

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How to Report a Lost or Stolen Credit Card

Discovering you have lost your credit card creates a flood of panic even in the calmest of personalities. Here are a few things to remember as you retrace your steps through the mall:

Contact your bank as soon as you realize you and your credit card have parted. Customer liability is capped at $50 for unauthorized transactions (and most banks don't even attempt to collect that in the name of customer service). Still, it's important to notify your bank as soon as you realize your card is missing. If you don't have your bank's contact information you can call Visa International at 1-800-VISA-911 to be routed to your banking institution. Mastercard has a similar emergency phone number, 1-800-MCAssist. When connected to your financial institution advise them you have lost your credit card and ask that they place a watch on your account while you retrace your steps. If you have no idea where it could be it might be safer to go ahead and request a "block and transfer" to shut down the old card and establish a new account number, card and PIN.

Carefully review your next billing statement and report any fraudulent charges to your bank immediately, in writing. It is a good idea to take notes indicating the person you spoke to at your bank and the times/dates you first reported your card lost or stolen. It is also smart to go ahead and write down the last time and date you remember using your card, along with a short description of the merchandise purchased and total amount. When your statement arrives this will make it much easier to identify which purchases belong to you, and which ones were used by an unauthorized user. If you do identify charges not belonging to you contact your bank immediately and ask to speak to the fraud victim division. They will provide instructions for disputing the charges, and advise whether or not a police report and affidavit is required. Be sure to follow up in writing. Federal regulations require a written letter from the customer to initiate the dispute process, even if you notify the bank via telephone. Send the letter "return receipt requested" so you have a record of when the bank received your notification.

If required, follow through with a police report (call the non-emergency phone number listed for your local jurisdiction) and provide the bank with a copy. If a suspect is identified you may be asked to sign an affidavit of forgery indicating you were a victim of financial fraud. Do not be intimidated, even if you know the person who used your card. Most credit card fraud is categorized as "friendly fraud," meaning the victim knew the perpetrator. Doesn't matter. The responsible party has committed fraud, and needs to either suffer the consequences or pay restitution to the bank.

Source: Associated Content

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Top 10 Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Credit cards seem to be the American standard for living these days. How many people do you see using cash anymore? We either use debit cards or credit cards for all of our purchases. Credit cards can be a great convenience and can be rewarding if they are used properly. To use a credit card properly, you need to pay the balance off in full the next month so that you do not have to pay interest. But in today's society, many people have a "buy now, worry about it later" mentality and wind up thousands of dollars in credit card debt. So the solution many use? Transfer the balance to a lower interest, or 0%, credit card if your credit is good enough. Here is a list of 10 balance transfer credit cards you can choose from to apply for if a balance transfer is needed.

Citi® Platinum® Select Card
Credit rating required: Good
The Citi® Platinum® Select Card has an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for up to one year depending on your credit history. Once the promotional period has expired, the standard variable APR on the credit card is applied to the remaining balance. Perks to this credit card include no annual fee and $0 liability on any unauthorized purchases. They have secure, free online account management if you choose to pay your bill online. You can apply online to get an immediate response. Good credit is required in order to be approved for this offer.

Discover® More Card
Credit rating required: Excellent
The Discover® More Card has an introductory offer of 0% interest for six months on purchases and 12 months on balance transfers for this credit card. You need excellent credit to apply for this offer, but the rewards and benefits are good. Users can get 5% - 20% in Cashback Bonuses for featured retailers (these change throughout the year) and up to 1% Cashback Bonus that is unlimited for all other purchases throughout the year.

With the Cashback Bonus, you can ask for a check, have the bonus electronically deposited into your account or have your charge account credited. You can also increase, and in some cases double, your Cashback Bonus by using it for gift cards from selected retailers.

You can pay your account balance online with their secure features and there is no annual fee for this credit card.

Once your 0% APR period expires, the standard APR will range anywhere from 10.99% to 18.99%. The rate will depend on your payment history with Discover.

Blue from American Express®
Credit rating required: Excellent
If you have excellent credit, you can get up to 15 months with a 0% APR by using Blue from American Express®. Balance transfer rates can be as low as 4.99% until the balance is paid off. The length of time for your 0% APR will depend upon your credit rating. There is no annual fee and cardmembers have secure, free online access to their account. Blue has the Membership Rewards Express Program where cardmembers can earn one point for every dollar they spend using their credit card. The regular APR is as low as prime + 4.99%.

GM Flexible Earning Card
Credit rating required: Good
The GM Flexible Earning Card, from HSBC, offers a 0% introductory rate on balance transfers for up to one year on this credit card. GM Flexible Earning Card has a 1% cash back option and a 1% earnings towards any other new vehicle. You can triple your earnings to 3% if you use it towards a new GM vehicle.

The regular APR is 14.24% and there is no annual fee.

Capital One® Platinum Pledge
Credit rating required: Good
With the Capital One® Platinum Pledge credit card, applicants can receive 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases through September 2008. After the introductory rate expires, a variable rate of 8.4% may be applied to the balance.

One benefit of this Capital One® credit card is that your APR will not automatically increase if you have one late payment. There is also no annual fee for credit cardholders. There are also some pretty nice benefits included with this credit card: roadside assistance 24-hours a day, $100,000 travel accident insurance, exclusive savings on Yahoo! Shopping, and insurance on rental cars.

AT&T Universal Savings Platinum Card
Credit rating required: Good
The AT&T Universal Savings Platinum Card, by Citi®, has a 0% balance transfer rate for 12 months. The regular APR may be as low as 10.49%. Another perk of using this credit card is during the first 12 months, cardmembers can receive up to 10% savings on AT&T purchases. There are also AT&T phone benefits with up to 30 free minutes a month by using the credit card as a phone card. Other perks include Internet related services, no liability for unauthorized charges, fraud and security protection services, and extended warranty for purchases.

Bank of America® Platinum Plus® Visa® Card
Credit rating required: Good
The Bank of America® Platinum Plus® Visa® Card has 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for the first 6 months. The regular APR is prime + 2.99%. There is no annual fee with this credit card and your credit line may be approved for as high as $25,000.

Perks of having this card include credit protection, online banking services, no liability with unauthorized charges, cash advance checks at no extra charge, and travel and emergency assistance.

Chase Platinum Credit Card
Credit rating required: Good
With the Chase Platinum Credit Card, approved members can receive up to 12 months at a 0% introductory offer on balance transfers. Time period for the length of the introductory offer will depend upon review of the application and credit history. Regular APR is 13.49%.

There is no annual fee, online account access, and cardmembers can get a Hertz car rental discount with this credit card.

Discover® More Credit Card
Credit rating required: Excellent
The Discover® More Credit Card varies a little from the typical Discover® Card in the rewards perks. There is six months with 0% APR on purchases and 0% on balance transfers for 12 months. There is no annual fee and the regular APR may be as low as 10.99%. Users of this credit card earn the typical 1% that regular Discover® members earn and the 5% on select retailers. The extra perk on this card is users can earn up to 20% cash back by shopping online with select retailers at Discover's exclusive shopping site.

Bank of America Rewards™ American Express® Card
Credit rating required: Good
The Bank of America Rewards™ American Express® Card has a 0% introductory rate for the first 12 billing cycles. The regular APR is 9.90%. Card users do not have an annual fee with this credit card and users have the flexibility to pay over time.

Credit card holders can earn 1% for every dollar they spend using this card and points can be redeemed for travel with no blackout dates. You can also use reward points for hotels, cash, gift certificates and other merchandise. Users will also have access to special cardmember offers that will help them save even more on purchases.

Source: Associated Content

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How To Control Credit Card Debts - Credit Card Debt Consolidation

More than one credit card debt consolidation techniques have emerged to bring rising debt level under control. Several debt consolidation methods have been especially devised for reducing credit card debt level and giving tips on credit card usage. Debt crisis results from credit card usage ubiquitous among Americans of all ages. If you are struggling hard to cope with the huge pressure to pay off credit card bills and dues, and to confront creditors, contact any credit card debt counseling company to find an effective solution and relief.

If you are thinking of declaring yourself bankrupt by failing to compensate the amount you owe to your credit card organization, think twice. There are some options like credit card debt consolidation loan, credit card debt counseling, credit card debt consolidation help through debt negotiation with creditors to provide options to reduce debt stress. Both your local and online debt consolidation companies have different debt reduction programs to reduce any amount of debt you owe.

Credit counselors at the credit card debt consolidation companies will either identify for you a loan to support the paying off outstanding bills or help you by contacting your creditors to bring your payable debt amount down. Credit counselors will either locate you loans created by them or loans designed by third party lenders. It is their job to spot the loan that suits your financial needs and matches your payable capability. With this loan you can merge your multiple debt accounts into one. As you pay off all the creditors with the help of this debt reduction loan, you have the responsibility of only one monthly loan payment.

If you do not want a loan, but services to reduce the debt amount by negotiation, there are some companies to offer you the same. These companies build network with the most common creditors and have knowledge about the extent creditors are flexible to lower debt amounts. With this credit card debt consolidation service, you get skilled staff of debt consolidation companies to talk to your creditors and you can receive a reduction of about 40 to 60 percent of the debt amount. As per this debt reduction program, they work to reduce your debt amount, reduce rate of interest, and reduce age of debt account and also often, the late fees and penalties. As your debt account is turned to current, so you have no more history of bad credit. Therefore, such credit card debt consolidation programs can reduce your debt amount and repair your credit standing too.

With aggravation of credit card dues, credit card debt consolidation seems to be the only answer. Credit card debt counseling helps you to take care of debt with an appropriate credit card debt consolidation program.

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Six Reasons to Choose Credit Over Debit

Credit Cards and Debit Cards both have an important place in our financial lives. But there are advantages to using one over the other. Remember Debit Cards withdraw money from your checking account immediately, at least in theory. Even though, Credit Cards are tied to a personal loan, it’s smarter to use a Credit Card over a Debit Card sometimes.

1.Credit costs you less.
Some banks charge customers for so-called in-store “PIN-based” debit card transactions. Fees range from .25 cents to $1.00, depending on the bank, Consumer Reports Money Advisor said. By choosing a “signature-based” transaction, you sidestep these fees.

2.Credit won’t result in a hold on your account.
When you use a debit card to reserve a hotel, rent a car or even fill up your tank, vendors sometimes put a “block” on your checking account until the transaction is processed – and the amount the “block” can significantly exceed the purchase price. If you’re running a low balance, this can result in punishing overdraft charges.

3.Credit makes it easier to cover your bases.
If you haven’t been keeping a close eye on your bank balance, it might be a good idea to choose the credit option on your debit card because it takes longer for the money to be debited from your account (usually around two days).

4.Credit allows interest to accrue.
If you religiously pay off your balance at the end of the month, you stand to make more money by paying with a no fee credit card. Why? Because you can allow your money to grow in an interest-bearing account until your bill comes due.

5.Credit gives you an out.
Using a traditional credit card makes it easier to reverse the charges if you get into a dispute with a merchant or vendor.

6.Credit shields you from liability.
If someone gets hold of your credit card, you’re typically responsible for only $50.00 worth of fraudulent charges. If your debit card is stolen, you may be liable for as much as $500.00 in unauthorized purchases, unless you report the theft within two business days.

Check with your bank or credit union for your account details.

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