I’m sure by now you heard about the credit card breach via Target stores last week. I’m sorry to say that I’m one of those people who went there a few times during that periods but I’m glad to say that it seems my card wasn’t one of those whose numbers were stolen. Even so, it’s another wake up call to all of us that our information isn’t secure when we use our credit cards or debit cards for purchases in many places.

Nic Taylor via Compfight

Truth be told, we’re lucky in that when fraudulent charges are discovered all banks and, hopefully, most credit card companies, will refund those purchases so you’re not liable for any of it. However, sometimes you might have to wait for that reimbursement, and the stressful feeling of knowing you’ve been breached in some way can be daunting. I know this, not because I was hacked while shopping, but my account was hacked at an ATM outside of a bank that wasn’t my own, right across from a security office in a mall. And I got my money back but had my account frozen for a week and it took 2 weeks to get my money back.

Still, we all have to spend our money and the most convenient way is to use our credit cards. But there are some things we can do if we’re worried enough about it. Below are some suggestions for you.

1. Use cash. This is the most obvious answer, but it comes with its own set of risks. During the holiday season, constantly pulling cash out of your pocket, especially if someone’s watching you, could make you a target of physical violence. If you go this route always be cautious of how you’re flaunting your cash.

2. Put money on a prepaid card. You can get cards like these at many different types of stores. For an upfront fee of some kind you pay to put so much on a card and then you use it like a credit card. There’s no extra information about you so if it gets stolen, all you will lose is the little bit left on that card and nothing else.

3. Don’t give up your zip code. You’ve probably never thought much about this one but it’s strangely important. If you give a company your zip code you allow them access to your home information. It seems that companies can access your street address have no idea where you really live to send you marketing information. If your card is hacked at one of these places, giving less information makes it harder for them to harm you as much as other places might.

4. Open a second checking account only for spending. Using this option could cost you anywhere from $3 to $10 a year depending on your bank, but many people create accounts like this to pay bills out of and don’t keep a large amount in it unless they need to pay bills or have something special they want to spend their money on.

5. Use gift cards. Gift cards are great most of the time as a gift but almost no one buys them to use on their own. They’re pretty safe but of course there’s that fee for buying the card and then another fee when you use it. Still, you’ll be pretty safe if that’s your main issue.

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