Q: I want a credit card that has a low authorized lending amount so if it's lost, stolen, or compromised, I am limited in the amount that I can be held accountable for. I want to use it for online purchases.
A: Dedicating a single card to online purchases makes sense, so you can isolate the risk of online credit card theft from your everyday purchases. However, you may want to look for a credit card with outstanding fraud detection, since carrying too small of a credit line could hurt your credit score.
Analysts at Javelin Strategy & Research have studied credit card fraud for about a decade. They say that roughly 5 percent of Americans will encounter some kind of fraudulent transaction every year. However, lenders and merchants bear most of the risk for false credit card charges. Monitor your credit card activity closely and notify your issuer of any weird activity, and you won't have to pay a thing. It's only in cases where cardholders lose track of their spending that they end up covering some or all of the costs related to stolen account numbers.
Try making your online purchases with credit cards from banks that ranked high on Javelin's scorecard for identity theft detection and resolution:
- Discover Card. Javelin rated Discover the best at resolving fraudulent purchases. As we learned from the "Peggy" ads, you won't have to struggle to find help from a knowledgeable agent.
- Bank of America. Kiefer Sutherland's not just their voice-over guy. He'll actually bring some Jack Bauer justice down on whoever tries to use your BankAmericard without your permission. If he's not available, BofA's award-winning Total Security Protection package packs its own punch.
- Navy Federal Credit Union. This lender offers secured rewards credit cards that let you choose your own credit limit based on the balance in your linked savings account.
- Citibank. The new, no-frills Simplicity credit card includes Citi's ramped-up online fraud detection systems.
- U.S. Bank. The customer service agents at U.S. Bank treat fraud prevention so seriously, they recently took down an international identity theft operation.
Most banks set your credit limit based on your files at three major credit reporting agencies, along with the income and expenses you list on your credit card application. Too low of a credit limit can lead to a high credit utilization ratio, which will drop your credit score a few points. Instead of requesting that your lender lower your credit limit, consider asking a customer service agent to place an authorization cap on future purchases. Fraudsters who see a high ticket purchase get declined will assume your account's already shut down.