How to Keep Debit Card Transactions Safe

Just in the United States, debit cards accounted for over $1.15 trillion in purchases in 2011. It is predicted that over 65% of all purchases will be made with debit cards by the year 2013.

Debit cards are here to stay. But just how safe is your debit card? Is it as safe as using your credit card?

Debit Card Loss and Fraud

Banks might not be quite as forgiving on your debit card (compared to a credit card) if your number or physical card is lost or stolen. Also, keep in mind that the money is taken out of your account instantly in most cases, so your loss is immediate. When a credit card is involved, the credit card company has lost money, at least until you pay the bill.

      1. If your card has not been lost or stolen, but you have unauthorized charges or purchases, you have 60 days from receiving your statement to dispute the charges and get your money back.

      2. If you lose your card or it is stolen, you have 2 days to report it as lost or stolen. If you do this, your loss is limited to $50. If you fail to act, you could be on the hook for $500. If you wait too long, all the loss could be yours alone.

      3. Keep in mind that most banks are willing to do better than the above rules. However, banks have the option of setting more stringent rules than the ones above. Be sure to read the fine print before you open an account and get your debit card.

Use these strategies to keep your card and money safe:

      1. Review your account regularly. If you still get a paper statement, just looking at that once a month isn’t good enough. Get online and review all your purchases at least once a week. Investigate everything that doesn’t look like it belongs to you.

      2. Keep your pin number to yourself. No one else needs to know your pin number. The fewer people that know, the better. Be careful about who is watching when you use your pin number. Gas stations are notorious locations for pin numbers being stolen. Remember that you always have the option of using your debit card in credit card mode.

      3. Be careful with online purchases. It’s a lot easier to run a scam and remain anonymous online. Some security experts recommend only using credit cards for online purchases. At the very least, ensure it’s a secure transaction. Always look for the security symbol when buying online.

      4. Stick to the ATMs at a bank. Those independent ATMs you see all over the place are far more likely to be used by criminals to skim cards and numbers. Stick to the banks.

      5. Beware of public wireless access. The wireless connection in a public place is never a safe place for taking care of financial transactions. Avoid making any purchases or logging on to any bank, credit card, or other financial accounts. Assume someone can see and record everything you’re doing.

      6. Watch the security questions. Lots of people know your dog’s name, your mother’s maiden name, or your first car. Use your favorite car for your mother’s maiden name or your friend’s dog’s name for your first car. Your answers have to be consistent, not truthful.

Debit cards have become very popular and will only continue to become more popular in the near future. Be careful how you use yours and where you choose to use it. The liability is quite small, provided you catch the issue quickly. Be smart with your debit card, and it will serve you well.

6 Ways to Protect Your Credit

While it’s possible to navigate the world without good credit, it’s both inconvenient and costly. Poor credit can prevent the purchase of a home, car, or the ability to get a credit card. Even if those things could still be accomplished, it’s far more expensive when your credit is poor. Poor credit can even limit your employment opportunities.

Poor credit can either be self-induced or due to identity theft. Electronic storage of personal information has potentially made it easier for criminals to access personal information.

Use these strategies to protect your credit and financial future:

      1. Review your credits reports annually. At least once a year, look over your credit reports and deal with any errors. Twice a year would be even better.

      2. Ensure your online accounts are secure. Use sophisticated passwords and only log on to your personal accounts in a secure location. Public internet access points are not secure.

      3. Secure your smart phone, tablet, laptop, and other devices. The auto-lock function is annoying to deal with, but provides a good layer of protection. Keep your anti-virus software up to date.

      4. Use a paper shredder. Picking through the trash is perhaps the most common method of gathering information. Shred documents that contain personal information.

      5. Be careful shopping online. Stick to websites you know are reputable and ensure the website uses the necessary encryption measures to protect your information. If the website address begins with ‘https’ and has a padlock symbol, you should be okay.

      6. Be smart. Only provide personal or financial information to those you have to.

Take action to protect your credit and financial future. The ramifications for having a low credit score can be serious.

Anchors Away: Finally Break Free From Credit Card Debt

Anyone with credit card debt knows just how challenging it can be. Interest rates are averaging 13 to 16 percent, and it’s not easy to get ahead once you have this type of debt.

If you have debts with high interest rates, make paying these a priority. It will bring you a lot of relief to pay them off as soon as possible and be rid of them.

Imagine how much better you’ll feel when it’s gone. Imagine how much better your finances will look without this debt. Plus, all the money that you’re applying to these debts will be available for other purposes when the debt is retired.

These steps will help you eliminate your credit card debt:

      1. Track your spending to the penny for at least a couple of months. When you’re faced with a buying decision, ask yourself if you really need this item. Can you live without it? You’re guaranteed to find at least one thing that surprises you if you truly track all of your spending.

      2. Reduce your spending. After all of that tracking, you can probably see where you’re spending more than necessary. Trim back and use the extra funds for your debt. Know that you’ll eventually end up with a lot more money in your pocket when this debt is gone.

      3. Consider earning some extra income. Are you overdue for a raise at work? Ask for it. A little overtime or a second job can make a huge difference in knocking down that credit card debt. Try to find something that you will enjoy doing.

      4. Take a look at other credit cards. Many cards offer interest free account transfers. Keep in mind that these transfers are frequently only interest-free if you are on time with all of your payments. One mistake can result in interest being charged on the full balance, even the amount you might have managed to pay down.
          • A card with a lower interest rate is probably out there. A few percent can be significant with a large balance or over a period of time.

      5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. You might be able to get your interest rate lowered with a simple phone call. Your creditor would rather get some interest from you instead of getting nothing. Asking for a better rate costs you nothing.

      6. Build a snowball. List all your credit card debt from highest interest rate to lowest. Pay the minimums on all the cards except the card with the highest interest rate. Put everything else you can afford toward the highest one. When that one is paid off, repeat the process and focus the highest interest rate card from those that remain.
          • Another version of the snowball is psychologically easier, but is not as efficient. This time, list all the credit cards from lowest balance to highest. Then follow the same procedure, focusing on the debt with the lowest balance.
          • This version is more exciting because you’ll pay off a card quicker. However, it’s also more expensive since you’ll be paying more interest.
          • The most important thing is to start decreasing that debt. Choosing a process is more important than choosing the best process. Just get moving forward as soon as possible.

      7. Avoid adding to your debt. While you’re really working at paying off these cards, stop using them. Similarly, don’t start using them again after the debt is eliminated.

These simple steps are all anyone really needs to get rid of credit card debt once and for all. While it takes time, the newfound freedom is more than worth it. When it’s over, you’ll have all that extra money in your pocket to enjoy as you wish.

7 Brain Hacks That Boost Productivity

Productivity is important because it relates to income and time. The more productive you are, the more money you can earn in many situations. You can also save time. That time can be spent on anything you like, including making more money.

There are many obstacles to productivity, such as a lack of focus, a lack of intention, a lack of stamina, and too many distractions, to name a few.

Hack your brain and increase your productivity with these strategies:

      1. Set an intention. Most people can’t focus because they’re not truly clear on what they want to focus on or for how long. Give yourself a fighting chance by choosing a specific task for a specific amount of time.
          • For example, you might decide you’re going to work on your tax return for 30 minutes. Set a timer and do your best for those 30 minutes.
          • Your brain will do its best to give you what you want if you give it clear instructions.

      2. Meditate. Meditation helps to build focus and calm your mind. Meditation is incredibly popular right now, so there is plenty of free information on how to meditate effectively. Educate yourself and get started. It’s simple and effective.

      3. Take regular breaks. Experiment with break frequency and duration. The best option for most people is either 25 minutes of work and a five-minute break, or 50 minutes of work and a 10-minute break. Discover what works best for you and then stick with it. Timers can be powerful tools.

      4. Avoid giving in to temptation. Most of us give in to the temptation of distraction far too easily. It’s a very difficult habit to break. We quickly go from feeling bored or stressed to amused. It feels good to check email or read a text.
          • The most productive people are able to overcome the urge to break their attention from their work task.
          • It’s important to avoid these distractions during your breaks, too. It’s too hard to get back on task, and your breaktime magically extends from five minutes to 25. Learn how to say “no” to your urges.

      5. Alternate high and low-focus tasks. Many people report greater productivity when they alternate between cognitively intense activities and those that require less intellectual effort. It’s similar to interval training in the gym.
          • Lower-level activities might include returning calls and emails, or other routine work. The lower-level activities give your brain a rest and the chance to recover. Soon, it’s ready for another round of more intense activity.

      6. Drink plenty of water. Most people are partially dehydrated. The solution is to drink plenty of water. That doesn’t mean you have to be chugging 20 ounces of water every hour. But, a 20-ounce bottle of water every few hours would be beneficial to most.
          • So many metabolic processes require water that you’re not at your best if you’re dehydrated.

      7. Develop a positive mindset. A positive outlook on life makes you more productive. Studies show that mindset affects productivity. Work on having a positive outlook and you’ll accomplish more each day. You’ll also be a lot happier.

Productivity should be important to everyone. Time is your most valuable asset, so do what you can to maximize it. We can all be more productive, but it doesn’t happen by magic. It must be a priority if you want to see real results. Dedicate yourself to maximizing your productivity.

Give your brain every chance to be your ally on this important journey.