5 Crucial Tips for Protecting Your Money
Whether you’re swiping your debit card every other day on campus, or traveling abroad for spring break, it’s important to make sure your hard-earned (and much-needed) money is safe. You may think your bank account is a safe place, but that’s not always the case. Follow these tips to keep your money accessible to you and only you, no matter what happens.
Related: 7 Money Tips for College Students
Have Two Accounts
Yes, we all want to make sure we have overdraft protection between checking and savings, but it’s even better to have an additional, completely separate bank account. Keep the bulk of your money in a savings account and only what you need in your checking and savings accounts at your normal bank.
At the beginning of each month, transfer whatever a month’s worth of money is over from the unlinked savings account to your checking account. This way, if you lose your debit card or somehow get spammed, the thieves only have access to a month’s worth of money. Most banks can recover those funds for you, but it might take a while, so you’ll be glad you’ve got money stored in a separate account that nobody else can touch.
Get a Credit Card
You don’t often hear people recommending the use of credit cards in this age of debt, but it’s actually a good tool for making online or potentially insecure transactions. Apply for a standard credit card that offers fraud protection, and always use this for online transactions.
It’s also a good rule of thumb to use this for purchases out of the country when you’re out of cash, just in case that little bodega on the outskirts of Cancun is running a scam. Credit card fraud protection normally covers $50 transactions, no questions asked, and when investigated, often covers thousands of dollars. As a student, you should be able to easily find a fee-free credit card through your college, bank, or local credit union.
Use Gift Cards
Another option, for those not interested in credit cards, is to purchase Visa, Amex, or MasterCard gift cards, which function as regular credit or debit cards. This way you can make purchases that are not linked to you or your bank account in any way, and you don’t have to worry about fees or credit checks.
Follow Online and Mobile Banking Tips
It’s pretty common these days to do some form of banking via mobile phone. While this can be a lifesaver when you’re at the grocery store and realize you need to transfer money into your checking account, it also makes it a bit easier for fraud artists to access your banking information.
There are a few things you can do to ensure you don’t share your banking information with strangers: Only bank over secure networks (for example, banking over password-less WiFi in the park is a bad idea), never follow bank-related links on your cell phone, make sure you have good password protection your mobile phone, only use official bank apps, and be careful what you download.
Especially watch out for downloading questionable apps and links on your mobile phone, because there are programs out there that log keystrokes, making it easy to gather your important information such as PINs, passwords, and bank account numbers.
Bill Pay Instead of Automatic Withdrawal
You might have heard this one before, but it’s always good to remember. It is safer to set up bill pay through your bank than to give a third party access to your bank account. If you allow your phone service company, credit card company, student loan service or internet provider access to your bank account, you are very vulnerable if they get hacked. Then you have to cancel everything and possibly open a new bank account.
If you set bill pay up through your bank account, it’s as secure as (or possibly more secure than) sending a personal check. You don’t share your banking information with anybody, and you can change, cancel, or alter your payments whenever and however you want.