Mammoth retailer Target recently revised its estimate of stolen credit card data to over 70 million cards. This was an astounding breach and a reminder to be aware of any identity theft and bank account safety at all times. Here are a few tips on the best ways to use payment conveniences and still protect your money:
Debit Cards: While they are convenient and can be used without additional fees (except for getting cash from certain ATM machines) debit cards are still not without risk. If a thief gets hold of your data, your entire bank balance is placed in jeopardy. Even if your account is covered for fraud, you can still be short of cash during the bank investigation. It's best to use your debit card only for getting cash, and only directly from your bank's ATM machine. Most security pros advise not using debit cards for online purchases.
Credit Cards: If you pay your balance monthly and keep from borrowing more than your budget, credit cards are great for purchases both online and off. All credit cards cover fraudulent activity and since they aren't connected to your bank account, you won't be without cash should a thief get a hold of your card data.
PayPal: Popularly used for online purchases, PayPal offers a way to access your debit card or bank account without the risk of getting cleaned out due to fraud, by creating a buffer between the web and your bank account. There are no fees or interest when using PayPal to purchase items, and the account can be connected to debit, credit, or electronic funds transfer directly from your bank account.
Whichever method you choose... the very best way to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft is to check your account transactions carefully at least once a month (once a week is better). Notify your bank if you see anything suspicious.
Sources: PayPal, CNN