5 Security Features That Keep Your Credit Card SafeWhile this information was accurate at the time this post was published, these cards’ offers and perks may have expired or changed over time. Visit our reviews of the best credit cards to find the right card for your needs.

One of the biggest advantages to using a credit card for your everyday spending is the complement of security features you get with it. The U.S. government provides great fraud protection to people who use credit, and card providers are constantly adding anti-fraud features to their cards, which is why it makes sense to pick credit over debit. Read on to learn about five security features that help keep your credit card safe.

Counterfeit Defense

Just like paper money, credit cards are a target for counterfeiters. Criminals can skim the magnetic stripe from your card, copy it onto a blank, then add a name and card number with an embossing machine to create a rough fake with your account information on it. Thankfully, over the years, card providers have taken steps to make manufacturing counterfeit credit cards increasingly difficult. Physical security features such as the signature panel, verification number and holographic watermarks all add to the visual complexity of cards, and the EMV chip is much more secure than magnetic stripes. While magnetic stripes store a static set of authorization data, EMV chips generate a new code for each transaction that has to be unique every time, making it extremely difficult for criminals to duplicate. The EMV chip has been so successful that counterfeit card use at chip-enabled merchants is down 66% compared to just two years ago.

Liability Protection

For credit cards, liability protection for fraud isn’t just a nice perk, it’s part of federal law. The Fair Credit Billing Act guarantees that your liability for any unauthorized use of your credit card is limited to just $50, and if only your number is stolen or you report your card as lost to your issuer before any fraudulent charges are made, that liability drops to $0. That provides much better protection than the law governing debit card liability, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. Its $50 liability protection only applies if you report the unauthorized charges within two business days of them showing up on your statement. After two days, your liability jumps up to $500, and if you don’t report the charges within 60 days, you’re on the hook for them in their entirety. It’s important to note that major credit card issuers offer $0 fraud liability, which means you won’t be responsible for any unauthorized charges made with your credit card — including the $50 that federal law requires you to cover if the loss or theft is reported after the card is used. Some banks may extend this feature to debit cards, but it’s not as common as credit cards.

Usage Monitoring

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this point that credit card companies extensively monitor your purchases. That may not have the best implications for privacy, but the good news is that all of the data your card provider collects on you allows them to monitor your account for fraud quite effectively. Over time, your issuer builds up a profile of your typical shopping habits, and when it finds something odd that doesn’t fit into your routine behavior, it can contact you for confirmation or decline the charge altogether. While legitimate charges sometimes get wrongly flagged, especially if you travel internationally without warning your card company beforehand, it’s a small price to pay for such a strong safeguard.

Free Credit Updates

Even if your credit cards are well-protected, that doesn’t mean you’re immune to identity theft or fraud on your other lines of credit. Fortunately, some cards — such as the Capital One Quicksilver Card – 0% Intro APR for 15 Months and the Citi Double Cash Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser), among others — give cardholders a free credit score with every statement, and will even email you updates when your score changes. Not only can this help you improve your scores, it can also warn you of dips in your score due to mistakes or fraud soon after they happen, giving you a better chance of setting things right. Keep in mind that your credit card only provides you with one of your credit scores, which isn’t a complete picture of your credit, as fraud may be wreaking havoc on your other two credit reports without your knowledge. If you want a card that takes alerts to the next level, you may want to consider a Discover card, which provides you with free identity theft alerts that can help you stay in the know with your social security number.

Card Freezing

When you lose your card, you’re faced with a tough decision: report it as lost immediately and deal with the hassle of getting a new card, or look for it and risk fraudulent charges popping up in the meantime. Well, with card freezing security features, such as Discover Freeze It or Citi’s Quick Lock, you can temporarily lock your card from making any transactions using your computer or a mobile app. If you find your card, you can just as easily unlock it, and if you don’t find it, you can report it missing with the peace of mind that your search didn’t put your account in any undue danger.

Credit cards have been one of the safest ways to pay for a long time, and card providers are always researching new ways to make sure things stay that way. For more information on how you can get the most out of your cards, visit our credit cards blog.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.