My best friend had her bank account hacked last week. It was likely a skimmer that got her debit card number. They managed to drain her of over $1,000 before the bank caught it and shut down the card and the account.
On the surface this isn’t a huge deal. Her credit union is going to make it right and restore all of her funds. But in the short term it’s turned into a bit of a nightmare for her. There is a bit of a process involved in getting the funds back and getting a new bank account, new debit card, and new checks. In the meantime, there are bills to be paid. She can’t access cash through an ATM. She can’t write a check. And the money she had in her savings (thank goodness!) is having to cover her for the time being. If that little bit of savings weren’t there she would be in an even bigger mess.
I like to protect myself against situations like this by using a credit card rather than a debit card for everyday purchases. When a credit card is compromised (which has happened to me several times), they shut off the card, refund the fraudulent charges, and send a replacement card. Not a big deal. I just have to use a different card in the meantime. And I do have a backup card, so not a problem.
I asked my friend why she was using debit instead of credit, and she said she doesn’t trust herself not to charge up a credit card. She budgets best by using debit. And it’s great that she knows that about herself. But she left herself with very little protection for this situation. She doesn’t have a backup plan. She has her savings, but no easy way to make payments on bills that are coming due this week. She may have to lean on her friends to make payments for her by check or by card until she is able to get herself restored.
What would you do if you didn’t have access to your checking account and bills were coming due? Do you have a backup plan? A second checking account? (Yes…I have one of those, too). A credit card you can turn to in emergencies? It’s worth thinking about. Hacks and fraudulent charges happen. And banks protect you from them. But you should always be prepared just in case.