The holiday season tends to bring out the best in people. Joy abounds and the spirit of caring is all around. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also bring out the worst in some people--those who take advantage of the multitudes of shoppers armed with wallets full of money and credit cards.
Take a moment and think about what you would do if your wallet was ever misplaced or stolen. Do you know what steps you should take to protect yourself from fraudulent charges made on your credit or debit cards? If not, check out what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends in such an event. Knowing exactly what to do can help you prepare for the worst.
Credit card registration services (sometimes called card protection services) are an additional option that you should know about. Card registration services come in handy if your credit or debit cards are ever lost or stolen--for a monthly or yearly fee. Although the fee is usually small, it is up to you to figure out if the services offered are worth it.
What does a registration program do?
When you sign up for a credit card registration service, you arrange for certain benefits that can help you out in a crunch, including:
- Cancellation of your credit, debit, and/or calling cards if they are lost or stolen, and
- Protection from unauthorized purchases made with stolen cards or by fraudulent means (i.e. reimbursement of 100% of unauthorized charges).
As far as protection goes, many registration services tout reimbursement and safeguards from fraudulent activities on your cards. Please note, though, that the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects consumers from fraudulent charges regardless of whether you are enrolled in a credit card registration service. If you report the loss or theft immediately upon learning about it, you can only legally be held liable for $50 if any fraudulent charges were made to your cards. Moreover, many credit card payment networks, including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, have recently introduced liability policies that provide 100% reimbursement for unauthorized charges. The end result is that the cardholder does not have to "pay a dime" for unauthorized charges. This benefit is offered free to all U.S. cardholders regardless of whether they are enrolled in a card registration service.
What are the advantages?
Say that your cards are stolen. You know what you have to do - call each of the credit card companies that you hold accounts with and cancel the cards.
However, say you are traveling and your cards are stolen. Do you remember the phone numbers of each credit card company? Did you take the phone numbers with you? If not, is it easy to find those phone numbers? Wouldn't it be nice to make one phone call and have all of that taken care of, relieving yourself of the hassle of placing all of those calls?
In addition to card cancellation, many registration services offer additional benefits such as:
- Change of address service.
- Easy and secure access to all of your credit card information.
- Emergency cash advances when credit cards are lost or stolen while traveling.
- Reimbursement for illegal charges made to your registered credit/debit cards for which you're held liable.
- Emergency airline tickets.
- Key tags that allow anyone who finds your keys to easily return them to you.
- Other options.
Some independent companies also offer a registration service. Two such companies are Credit Card Sentinel (where the fee is $12 a month), and Street Smart (which has an annual fee of $59.95). In addition, AAA offers a card registry service free to members.
Do you need to register your cards?
Some people feel that registration services are a nice perk, while others can very well live without them. See what the Federal Trade Commission has to say on the subject. Research and shop around so you can determine if any registration services fit your needs.
Enjoy the season, and here are hopeful wishes that you will never need to utilize such services for a lost or stolen wallet!
About the Author
Rebecca Lindsey is a Senior Staff Writer for CardRatings.com. She began writing articles about consumer credit issues for CardRatings.com in September 2000. Her articles have been republished and/or referenced by leading publications throughout the country, including Live Well on Less Than You Think: The New York Times Guide to Achieving Your Financial Freedom by Fred Brock.