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It’s only October, but some of us are already freezing — credit freezing, that is.
In the wake of a data breach at Equifax, which was revealed in September and could have repercussions for millions of consumers, several of the Nerds’ credit card tips this month focus on security and protecting yourself.
Respond to Equifax breach
Unless you were in a media blackout during September, you know that a breach at Equifax exposed the personal information — including Social Security numbers — of around 143 million consumers.
If you're looking for ways to lock down your data, security experts say your options include monitoring your credit report, setting up fraud alerts with the credit bureaus and potentially freezing your credit.
Try a digital wallet
While you’re protecting your information, consider how you safeguard your physical credit cards. Do you carry only the cards you need when you go out? Or do you like to have all of them in your wallet so you can choose which one to use for each purchase? If so, and your wallet is stolen, you’ll have to call each issuer and replace every card.
An easier and potentially safer solution is to use a digital wallet. Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay are all available for smartphones. You don’t have to carry the physical cards when you shop, and checkout is faster than waiting for an EMV chip reader to beep at you. Most leading credit cards are compatible with digital wallets.
You get additional security because your phone is passcode-protected — you do lock your phone with a passcode, right? — and each purchase requires a passcode or a fingerprint. Behind the scenes, the purchase is tokenized, meaning it's assigned a one-time number so your 16-digit credit card number is never disclosed, even to the store.
Protect that pricey iPhone X
Apple announced its iPhone X in September. The device will be available for preorder on Oct. 27 and begin shipping on Nov. 3. If you’re buying this $1,000 smartphone, you might benefit from a credit card that offers cell phone protection. The Wells Fargo Platinum card provides up to $600 of coverage for damage or theft — with a $25 deductible — if you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card.
If you’re a small-business owner who pays for your employees’ phones, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card also pays up to $600 per claim for damage or theft of employee cell phones when you pay your monthly bill with the card. Cardholders are restricted to a maximum of three claims in a 12-month period, and the deductible is $100 per claim.
And don’t forget that the payment networks — Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover — also offer purchase protection plans for theft and damage.
Opt in to 5% bonus categories
New 5% bonus categories begin this month for those with certain Discover cards or the Chase Freedom® — so make sure you activate them. You'll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, and 1% back on all other purchases.
Discover's bonus categories for October through December 2017 are Amazon and Target — just what you need for holiday shopping. The Chase Freedom® also has shopping in mind: Its bonus categories for the final quarter of 2017 are Walmart and department stores.
If you have one of these rotating bonus category cards, why not let Halloween start scaring you up some cash back? Consider buying your costumes, candy, decorations and party supplies at Target, Amazon or Walmart. According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween-related spending is projected to hit $9.1 billion this year.
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