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You may think you know all about debit cards, but they can be dangerous and leave you vulnerable to scammers. In fact, they may feel safer than credit cards since you are spending your existing money instead of borrowing. But if someone gets access to your debit card, they can get access to your checking account. And even if you identify the fraud, you might not necessarily get your money back. Check out the tips below to help you protect your debit card, as well as your checking account, from fraud.

Cover Your PIN

It’s a good idea to use bank ATMs whenever possible. They generally will cost you less in fees and are safer. They typically have bright lights and surveillance cameras that those looking to commit fraud tend to stay away from.

Whenever you use an ATM and input your PIN code, it’s important to use your other hand to cover the number pad so no person (or hidden camera) will be able to obtain your personal identification number.

Set Up Daily Alerts

You can work with your bank to establish daily alerts when your checking account is accessed. Text or email alerts are an easy way to stay on top of transactions.

Another strategy is to keep as little cash as possible in your checking account. This way if someone gains access to it, the damage won’t be as bad.

Use a Credit Card When Possible

While there are advantages to using a debit card (there is no interest to pay and the money comes out of your bank account right away), they are not necessarily the most secure option. It can be safer to use your debit card to withdraw cash as needed (following the above tips) and a credit card for other purchases.

If you are worried about overspending, it’s a good idea to set up a budget, sign up for automatic payments, and, as always, track your card usage carefully. As long as you keep your credit utilization under 30%, your credit score should stay healthy. You might even find yourself racking up rewards.

Be Careful Online

Shopping online exposes you to certain risks that can be easier to manage in brick-and-mortar vendors. It’s a good idea to only use your card at sites you know you can trust, and try to enter it as a “credit” transaction by entering your debit card number as if it was a credit card.

You can also sign up for two-factor authentication if your bank offers it. This added security means that you need more than a username and password to sign into your account and a code will be sent to you via text or email.

Carrying a debit card carries risk, but there are ways to use it wisely. Be vigilant when it comes to debit card use and always be on the lookout for fraudulent charges.

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