Lesson From the Target Data Breach: You Need More Than 1 Credit Card

Photo (cc) by Philip Taylor PT

In the past month or so I’ve had four credit cards compromised. Notice of the latest breach came via email this morning: Some thieving cretins bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff from Walmart.com and then tried to spend hundreds more at a different online company.

The four cards weren’t part of the Target breach, in which 40 million people had their credit and debit card data stolen. But that theft should help convince people to come around to my way of thinking: You need at least two credit cards.

For example, suppose you were on vacation or traveling on business and found your plastic didn’t work?

That’s exactly what happened to me. I’m currently in Phoenix to celebrate Christmas with my daughter and son-in-law. The card that got hacked is now kaput. What if I wanted to go shopping, or needed to pay for a van ride back to the airport?

Fact is, I have enough cash and my daughter will make sure I get back to Sky Harbor. But I also have another credit card. Right now it’s tucked away and I might not need to use it at all.

But I’m glad it’s there, just in case.

Keeping your options open

We shouldn’t rely on credit cards, but they do make some things – especially travel – a lot easier.

You can also use credit rewards programs to your advantage; in fact, the majority of my holiday gifts this year came from rewards points. This is particularly important in view of my recent economic downturn.

Twice I’ve had family health crises in other states and needed to fly out immediately, without a clear idea of how long I’d be gone. On another occasion I became sick while traveling and had to leave the plane for the emergency room. Afterward I needed a hotel room until I was cleared to travel the following afternoon.

In all cases, a credit card helped tremendously.

I am not suggesting irresponsible credit card use. But I think you should keep your options open – and having more than one card lets you do that.

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