The physical credit card is basically a carrier of information. Some is shown, so businesses can read it, while some is hidden and encrypted and can only be read with a special card reader. Here is a list of basic information that appears on almost every credit card:
- On the front of every credit card is a number. For the American Express, or Amex, card, it is a fifteen-digit number. For other types of cards, there are sixteen digits. The number identifies your account so the banks will know where to charge the money. Amex gives a unique number for each card, even if you are a family and using the same account. The other card networks will give the same number to all the cards under the same account.
- Below the card number, there is always an expiration date shown. Like the food in a grocery store, credit cards are only good before the “valid through” or “expired by” date. The company will generally issue you a new card with a new expiration date if you follow its rules.
- At the bottom front of the card is the name of the cardholder. Sometimes it can be followed by a company name if the card belongs to a company and is authorized to be used by the employee named above.
- On more recent credit cards, especially those issued after 2015, you can find a small chip embedded in the card. It is called the EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) chip, or smart chip. It is used to store the cardholder’s information. All the data stored in it is encrypted and can only be read by approved card readers. When you insert a card into a card reader, chances are that the reader is scanning the smart chip for processing.
- The card security code (CSC), sometimes called card verification value or code (CVV or CVC), is a security feature for credit-card transactions that protects against credit-card fraud. MasterCard, Visa, and Discover cards have a three-digit code called the “CVC2” (card validation code), “CVV2” (card verification value), and “card member ID,” respectively. It is not embossed like the card number and is always the final group of numbers printed on the back signature panel of the card. Amex cards have a four-digit code printed on the front side of the card above the number, referred to as the “CID,” or card identification number. It is printed flat, not embossed like the card number.
- On the back of the credit card, there is a magnetic stripe. It was the traditional way to store the card information before the smart chip was introduced. When you swipe a credit card through a credit-card reader, the reader will scan the information stored on the stripe. The reader will then send the information to the card network to perform the transaction. Don’t put the stripe close to any other magnetized item, or the information stored could be damaged, rendering the card useless.
7. Below the magnetic stripe is the signature line for the card. When one receives a credit card, one should sign it immediately. The sales associates in many stores will compare the signature on the card with the signature on the bill to make sure that the card doesn’t belong to someone else.
Debit card are very common nowadays, as more people recognize excessive credit balances are harmful to their financial situation. You can’t draw or spend money with a debit card if there aren’t sufficient funds in your bank account. So it’s a great control for excessive spending. Since you are the only person responsible for using the debit card, extra precautions are necessary:
- Treat your debit card like cash.
- Report a lost or stolen card at once.
- Keep your receipts, and compare them with your statement monthly.
- Don’t link your savings account (where you put the bulk of your funds) to your debit card.
- Cut up unused debit cards.
- Avoid placing the card near strong magnets.
Safeguard your PIN for the debit card by
- Selecting a non-obvious PIN.
- Not your birthday, home address, phone number, sequential numbers, etc.
- Try a word instead of numbers.
- Combine event numbers.
- Use different PINs for different cards.
- Keeping your PIN secret.
- Don’t write it on your card.
- Don’t give it over the phone or in email.
- Don’t let others enter it for you.