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The holiday shopping
season is in full swing. Whether you're
shopping online, by phone or at the mall,
chances are you'll use a credit card for
some of your purchases. The Federal Trade
Commission offers these tips to keep in
mind when you shop.
1. Keep track of your
Incidental and impulse purchases add
up. Remember credit cards are just like
loans -you have to pay what you owe. Owing
more than you can repay can damage your
credit rating. That can make it hard to
finance a car, rent an apartment, get
insurance - even get a job.
Pay your bill on time, and in full,
if possible. If you don't, you'll have
to pay finance charges on the unpaid balance
- and it takes forever to get caught up
if you just pay the minimum.
2. Keep an eye on your
card and account number.
Never lend your credit card to anyone
because you're responsible for paying
the bill. Any problems with the bill can
damage your credit rating.
Don't sign a blank charge slip. Draw
a line through blank spaces on charge
slips above the total so the amount cannot
Never put your account number on the
outside of an envelope or a postcard.
Be cautious about disclosing your account
number over the phone unless you know
you are dealing with a reputable company.
Carry only the cards you anticipate
using to help prevent loss or theft.
If your credit and ATM cards are lost
or stolen, report it to the card issuers
as quickly as possible. Many companies
have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service
to deal with such emergencies. Follow
up with a letter, including your account
number, when you noticed the card was
missing, and the date you first reported
3. Keep good records
Save your receipts. Compare them with
your monthly bill. Promptly report problems
to the company that issued the card. Usually,
your statement will provide instructions
for disputing a charge.
If you order by mail, phone or online,
keep copies or printouts with details
about the transaction, including any warranties,
or return and refund policies if you're
not satisfied. You should have the company's
name, address, phone number, the date
of your order; a copy of the order form
you sent to the company or a list of the
items ordered and their stock codes, the
order confirmation codes and the ad or
catalog from which you ordered.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information
to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free
information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov
or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil
and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.