Using a credit card and getting cash back or rewards points is a smart way to save extra money. Unfortunately, if you’re a credit card user you’re likely well aware of the many high-profile security breaches at national retailers over the last few years in which millions of customers’ credit card data was compromised. For example, the Home Depot’s 2014 hack exposed 56 million customer credit cards, and Target’s 2013 hack exposed 70 million. While these large scale breaches are well documented in the media, more common and more pernicious are small scale breaches in which your information is individually compromised.

Thankfully, the risks of that type of breach can be minimized by adopting some relatively simple best practices for credit card usage and security. 

1. Subscribe to Transaction Alerts


Most major credit card issuers now provide a free service that allows you to sign up for transaction alerts, which notify you every time your credit card is used. By receiving a text or email letting you know your card has been authorized, for how much, and by what business, you are much more likely to identify fraudulent transactions than if you simply review your credit card statement each month. Moreover, you’ll notice the fraudulent charge almost immediately, which will limit the damage to you.

2. Make Purchases Online Not Over the Phone

Whenever you are perusing a company’s website and ready to make a purchase, it may seem safer to call and speak to the company’s call center to place your order, as opposed to entering your credit card data into the checkout page. In reality, however, the opposite is typically true. That’s because more than 80% of all merchant initiated credit card fraud is perpetrated by the company’s own employees.

Thus, by reading out your credit card information over the phone, you’re creating a situation in which an additional employee has your information. Moreover, often the individuals handling credit card data are not the highest paid, not well monitored, and often in high turnover positions, all increasingly the chances that they might resort to credit card theft. 


3. Make Purchases Only Via Secured Checkout Pages

When you decide to make a purchase via a website’s shopping cart, first confirm that the website’s checkout page is SSL secured. You can check by looking to see if you see a green lock in your internet browser’s search bar, indicating that SSL security is enabled. SSL security means that there is a secure encrypted connection between your internet browser and the company’s server. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you whether the server to credit card processor’s connection is secure, or whether the credit card processor uses tokenization encryption technology. That said, because SSL encryption is an affirmative step that business’ must take to protect cardholder data, it’s an indication that the business takes seriously the need to protect their customers’ credit card data.


Credit card fraud is a real concern, and once it has occurred, dealing with this form of fraud is expensive and time-consuming to rectify. Thankfully, by following the three best practices outlined above, you can significantly reduce the risk that your credit card data will become compromised, particularly when making purchases in an eCommerce setting. 

About the Author

Brad Martin is an editor for Soar Payments, which offers merchant accounts for high risk businesses, such as high ticket, startup, and card-not-present businesses. You can learn more about Soar Payments via the company’s facebook page.