Give Yourself Credit

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Wise Precautions

Controlling your finances includes more than paying your bills and keeping track of your cash. Being aware of what is spent in your name is another thing you need to control carefully.

CREDIT CARDS - Credit cards have become so commonplace now that most people have one sort or another which they use liberally. Although many precautions are taken to safeguard your credit card information, there are certain things you can do to make yourself safer still.

Sign your Credit Card the way you will sign the credit card charge slips. And BE SURE to sign it. Those of us with some vision often wait to sign our credit cards until circumstances are ideal for our best effort at our signature. This is reasonable since you will display this effort every time you use the card. But think about where you will be signing charge slips and under what kind of lighting, etc. If you can't write your best to sign the slips, don't write your best to sign the card. Signatures are supposed to be compared. If you cannot see as you sign, you will be far more likely to duplicate your signature when making your purchases.

There are several types of credit cards. The simplest is actually not a credit card at all. It simply takes the place of writing a check and the money is immediately deducted from your checking account. This card, known as the debit card, is relatively easy to get from a bank where you have a checking account and a good credit rating.

If you use a debit card, keep your receipts in an envelope marked so you can identify at least the envelope if not each receipt. Be sure you have been charged what you expected to be charged. Ask the clerk to read the total charged from the receipt and charge slip before you sign the charge slip, and compare them with your statement or with charges to your account carefully. (See BANKING) These debit cards usually look just like a credit card and are generally accepted where credit cards are taken. They may or may not be covered by a check guarantee, and they could possibly be tied to a credit card, but are often not representative of any sort of credit beyond your own checking account.

A credit card such as a VISA or American Express is generally of two types, the sort you charge on to avoid writing checks, etc., but pay off upon receiving the bill, and the actual Credit card which allows you to purchase more than you can pay for and make the payments over an extended period of time in a sense making a loan to yourself.

If any of these cards are lost or stolen it is important to notify the institution issuing them of the loss. Be sure to keep the card numbers and 800 number to call if they are lost in a safe place in a form which you can access by yourself. The sooner you report a lost or stolen card, the less your exposure it to charges made against your name and account.

STORE CARDS...A good way to establish your credit is to begin with a charge card for a local store where you shop regularly. It is usually easier to obtain a card from such a store and you have an opportunity to establish credit with people you know. These cards are usually only good for one particular store or product such as gas. The interest is generally higher on the store-specific cards than on the generalized credit cards. This is a result of their being easier to get, but is may be worth it, especially when establishing a credit history. Once again, be sure to sign these cards as you will sign the charges, and keep a record of the numbers.

YOUR SIGNATURE, PLEASE - When asked for your signature, it is easy just to ask the clerk to place your credit card on the line where you need to sign. This gives you a writing guide and also puts your card back in your hand and control. Another way to sign if the merchant wants to hold the card until they have checked your signature is to ask them to fold the charge slip along the signature line thereby giving you a raised line on which to sign. This is actually easier as you can go below the line with no difficulty.

Take care to fold your receipt and charge slip together and keep them in a safe place where you can find them in case you need to make a return or verify a charge on your account. If you remember which slip is which when you get home from shopping you can either braille on the receipt which item it came from or you can write in marker on a 4X6 card and staple it to the receipt and charge slip before you put them in your record envelope. Do not throw away the receipt or charge slip without tearing them in very small pieces. And if you need to send in a receipt be sure to block out your card number. Your charge number and name appear on them quite often and it is easy enough to piece a few squares together and steal your information and your good credit. What's good enough for WaterGate is good enough for us.

Be aware that when you order over the telephone or via computer from catalogs or other sources, that your credit card number is usually printed on the invoice, so handle that material with care as well, and keep it on file in case you need to return the items). You are probably far more likely to have your credit card number misused by someone reading it on the receipt, charge slip or invoice they find in the dump or in your trash than you are by someone snatching it from the web strands of the INTERNET.

©Copyright - Kathy Seven Williams 1996
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