Keep an eye on your surroundings – Crowded malls and shopping centers are a savory opportunity for pickpockets. You’re expecting to get bumped and won’t notice one more jostle in a day full of them. If you do recognize you’ve been robbed, the thief can probably get away into the crowd, disappearing like a needle in a haystack. Purses should be worn across the body, wallets kept in the front pocket or inside a closed jacket. Consider leaving the house with the bare minimum, such as your driver’s license or ID, health insurance card and our debit card – which offers fraud protection and security features not available with cash.
RFID, RFID, RFID – Today’s pickpockets don’t need to take your wallet to cause you problems, because many modern debit and credit cards emit RFID signals with personally identifying information. If any of your cards have a chip, then you need to account for them. Check our RFID wallet guide for some tips. In a pinch, you can wrap chipped cards in two layers of aluminum foil, which will offer you protection from high-tech pickpockets, but you may get some bewildered stares or questions from folks at the register.
Understand the dangers of every form of payment – Every form of payment has its dangers. Cash is portable and untraceable, so it’s a target for thieves. Cards without EMV chips are in danger from skimmers built into the card reader at registers (like what happened at Target). EMV cards can be skimmed by people with specialized equipment who bump up next to you. All cards, cash and mobile phones are in danger of being stolen. Some experts are even saying that check fraud will be the most dangerous type of identity theft over the next five years. Even if you attempt to return to agrarian-era bartering, an enterprising thief could run off with the cow you were going to trade for an Old Navy gift card.
- File your taxes. Don’t get mad at us, it’s not our fault. We’re only reminding you to do it early because you’ll already have most of what you’ll need, so getting your homework done on Friday will give you the rest of the weekend off. And don’t forget to have any refund directly deposited to your Destinations account.
- Rework your debt. You have every one of your credit card and other account statements in front of you, so it’s time to make some calls. For your higher interest cards, it’s time to pay them down, transfer the balances to a MasterCard at Destinations Credit Union or negotiate a lower rate. This is easier if you’ve got some cash in hand, possibly from the tax refund you now know you’re getting. You can also take this time to explore using your home equity to eliminate some of the high-interest cards.
- Set up a Holiday Club for 2016. Alright, you just saw how much money you spent this holiday season. Next year, resolve to do it all without taking on unnecessary debt. You’ll save a ton of money and a ton of stress. The best way to do that is with one of our Holiday Club accounts. Use this year’s budget as a guide. Next year will be a breeze.
And that’s it. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really taking the same level of vigilance you would use for normal shopping and increasing it to correspond with the increased spending of the season. For a good rule of thumb, maybe we should just establish the “3-Mariah” rule: Once you hear Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” for the third time on any day, you have to go home – you’ve either spent too long at the mall, or your brain has been turned into holiday slurry and you can no longer be trusted to remain vigilant. Three Mariahs and you’re out.