Q&A: Is There Any Reason to Check My Credit Card Accounts Online?

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Question: I get my credit card statement via email every month and I review my purchases. Should I also check my accounts online during the month?

Answer: I'm glad to hear that you review your statement every month. That's so important! And it's a good way to catch unauthorized purchases. But it's also a good idea to check your accounts online a few times a week. Here are a couple of reasons why it's a good habit to develop.

You Can Catch Fraud in the Early Stages

Unfortunately, we live in a time where data breaches occur with regularity. These hacks can lead to credit card fraud when someone uses your stolen account information. According to the 2015 Identity Fraud Study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research, there's a new identity fraud victim every two seconds. That's truly astounding. The recent issuance of credit cards with chips will help deter fraud, but it won't eliminate it. So you need to be on your toes no matter what type of credit card you possess.

Most major credit card companies offer zero fraud liability on their best credit cards. But even if you don't lose any money over it, it's a real pain to clean up the mess. You can hang on to your sanity as well as stop fraud in its tracks by checking your online accounts frequently.

How frequently? Identity theft experts suggest every day. If that seems too daunting, try to check the accounts a few times a week. You want to look at each purchase and make sure it's valid. Often, a thief will run a small charge through the account (less than $10) to see if it's a "live" account. If you see small charges that you didn't make, then that's a sign someone has your account number.

If you find signs of fraud, contact your credit card issuer immediately and have the account frozen. This way, there can be no further financial damage done to your account.

You Can Keep Tabs on Authorized Users

It's not uncommon for parents to introduce their kids to credit by adding them as an authorized user on one of their credit cards. Depending on your particular card and the features offered, you should be able to set up a variety of spending controls. However, it's still a good idea to do a frequent check on your account to see where (and how) the card is being used.

Hopefully, you and your child had a talk about how much could be spent per month and what type of purchases the card could be used for. A good motto when you're training kids to use credit? Trust, but verify.

You Can See if You're Still on Budget

Taking a peek at your accounts every few days is also a great way to make sure you're staying within your budget. You should have a maximum amount you're allowed to spend using credit cards, otherwise you might not have enough cash flow to cover the balance. If that happens, you end up paying interest and that's a waste of your hard-earned money.

And there's just something about "seeing" your purchases on the screen that makes it real. There's an emotional disconnect when it comes to using plastic. You don't feel like you've actually spent money because there isn't a physical exchange of dollars. So checking up on your accounts online is a good way to make sure you're on budget and that your credit life is on track.

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