7 ways to protect your credit cards online

Originally Published on Blog.Lastpass.com on April 12, 2018 By Leah Bachmann

As you know – especially if you regularly read our blog – security breaches are common these days. And it’s hard to avoid sharing credit card information with companies you interact with daily. Think about online shopping and banking – or even companies you don’t interact with online, like your coffee shop – they can all be breached and expose your personal and financial information.

We often discuss how to protect yourself with good password habits – and trust us, that helps protect credit cards too (see tip #7). But there are other steps you need to take to specifically protect credit cards – so read the list below and take these steps before a breach occurs.

1. Sign up for credit monitoring

Credit card companies often offer credit monitoring. You may even have received free credit monitoring thanks to all the companies that have been breached in recent years. Remember, if you’re in the US you also get a free credit report every year from the three major credit bureaus. Be sure to take advantage of these free services when possible so you can be aware of any fraud or identity theft.

2. Use credit cards not debit cards

Credit cards tend to have better fraud protection than debit cards. It’s better to use credit cards for online purchases, and even in-store purchases when possible. Save the debit card for getting cash out of an ATM (but of course, beware skimmers that try to capture your card details on ATM machines).

3. Freeze your credit files

Freezing your credit files is a smart action to take if your information was compromised during a breach like Equifax in 2017. The benefit of a credit freeze in this scenario is that it prevents anyone – authorized or unauthorized – from applying for credit in your name. It also protects your credit score as each inquiry impacts it overall.

To do this, you have to contact each of the credit monitoring firms directly (here are the direct links: Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, and Innovis) and request the freeze. It can take some time (and sometimes a small fee) but in certain breach scenarios like Equifax, this is a step we highly recommend. When you freeze, each firm will give you a pin code to use when you want to unfreeze. You can store this pin in a secure note in LastPass for easy access when you want to unfreeze.

4. Monitor your bank and credit cards

Your bank and credit cards should be notifying you of suspicious activity, but small transactions may go undetected. Be sure to review this information yourself!

5. Stop saving your credit card information to websites

It’s so easy to let your favorite online stores save your credit card information. However, the less sites that have that information the better. If you like the convenience of autofilling credit card information, LastPass autofill feature can help.

Simply create a profile in your LastPass Vault and save your credit card information there. From your Vault click the tab called “Form Fill Profiles” and create a new profile from there. Or from your LastPass browser extension choose “Form Fills” and choose “Add Form Fill.”

Now when you’re checking out from your favorite online store, you will see an icon to click that will automatically fill in your credit card information – as well as your address and other contact information.

6. Avoid making purchases over public Wi-Fi

We know it’s hard to avoid, but try to wait until you’re on a trusted Wi-Fi connection to use your credit card online. If there are weaknesses in a site’s security, they can be exploited over public Wi-Fi. If you’re on the go, use your cellular network instead.

7. Keep up strong password best practices

Your passwords protect everything you do online, whether it’s your bank account, email account, or your step-tracking app. Using strong, unique passwords for every single account and storing those in a password manager like LastPass is a smart safety precaution to protect your personal information and identity – including credit cards.