Credit card, debit card & ATM security

Security precautions for using ATM machines and tips for avoiding credit card and debit card fraud.

Person's hand entering a PIN number at an ATM machine.

Modern banking is convenient but you still need to stay vigilant to protect your credit and debit cards, which thieves can use for both financial theft and identity theft.

Here is some card security information, as well as some pointers about protecting yourself and your identity, when using ATMs.

Credit and debit cards

  • Keep them in a safe place. Always keep your credit and debit cards in a safe place; never leave your card lying around the house or on your desk at work. No one should have access to the card but you.
  • Report lost or stolen cards. If your card is lost or stolen, notify your bank immediately. Many banks offer online resources to make reporting a lost card even easier.
  • Avoid writing your full card number on checks. If you use a check to pay your credit card bill, only include the last four digits of your card's account number on your check payment.
  • Create strong passwords. When setting up new cards, remember to create a strong password that's unique to each account. Avoid using the same password for your bank account and retail sites.

Chip cards

Chip cards are one more way to help you prevent credit theft. The thumb-size metallic square on your credit cards is a computer chip, which turns your credit card into a chip card and makes it nearly impossible for hackers to clone credit cards. Unlike the magnetic stripe on traditional credit cards, chip cards don't store sensitive information. Instead, each time the card is used, a unique transaction code is generated. If hackers intercept that transaction, they will not be able to use the code again.

As you get up to speed on chip cards, keep these five facts in mind:

  1. Insert, don't swipe: Instead of swiping the magnetic stripe, you insert the chip card into a chip reader.
  2. More secure, but not foolproof: Though chip cards are more secure, they can still be compromised. If your physical card is lost or stolen, it can be used by someone else since most cards only require a signature. What's more, the credit card chip doesn't protect against online fraud, so your card could still be compromised by internet purchases.
  3. They're slower: We've all grown used to the speed of swiping, but the chip reader takes longer. Expect to spend a few more seconds at the checkout line.
  4. You can use the magnetic stripe as backup: While you should always use the chip reader, not all retailers have it installed or activated yet. If they do not, chip cards also have a magnetic stripe you can use.
  5. Fraud liability doesn't change for the consumer, but it does change for the card issuer and the merchant at point of sale: If there are fraudulent transactions on your credit card, you still have the same fraud protections with a chip card as before (you may be required to pay up to $50 for those transactions, but often you will not be charged).

PIN safety

  • Keep your Personal Identification Number (PIN) a secret. Never share your PIN, even for the sake of convenience.
  • Change your PIN on a regular basis. Most banks allow you to easily change your PIN online or by phone.
  • Hide written down PIN numbers. If you must write down your PIN, do not keep it in your wallet, purse or on the card itself.
  • Select a safe PIN number. Avoid numbers and letters that can be easily identified or associated with you. Do not use your initials, birth date, telephone number or any part of the card number.
  • Take precautions from others. When using an ATM, do not allow others to see your PIN, what type of transaction you are making or how much money you are withdrawing.

ATM security

  • Be wary of people trying to help you with ATM transactions. If you feel unsafe, or as though something is amiss, move on. It's usually not too difficult to find another ATM.
  • Always be ready for your transaction. Have your card ready as you approach the ATM. This will help you avoid spending time digging through your purse or wallet.
  • Watch our for scams. Do not use an ATM that appears unusual looking or offers options with which you are not familiar or comfortable. Some scam artists actually plant unregistered ATMs in order to collect card numbers and PINs.
  • Avoid large cash withdrawals.
  • Take caution when retrieving cash. Do not count or display any money you received from the ATM.
  • Take all of your receipts with you.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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