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Our credit cards got compromised at least 4-5 times in the last year. It's nothing that we did, it's typically security leaks and hacks at retailers: Home Depot, Target, Staples, etc.

Every time that happens, the credit company closes all existing accounts and issues new cards. That's a royal pain since all the auto pays to be edited and it's also very tricky and inconvenient if you travel abroad (which we do a lot). We actually had some late payments issues because not doing this fast enough.

Are there any strategies to minimize the risk? Are there specific card issuers that more vulnerable that others (Citi vs. CapitalOne vs. Chase), Mastercard vs. Visa, are there any retailers that we should avoid in general?

Any other tips or tricks anyone can think of?

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Seems like your problem is more about your lenders re-issuing credit cards to you (rather than taking financial losses due to fraud).

It is simply up to the credit card companies whether they want to re-issue a credit card. Some might be more proactive. Using a card with EMV (a chip) and possibly a PIN would increase the difficulty to counterfeit your card. But the card issuers can still flag your card as breached and re-issue one for you. (In my case, I received three Citi EMV-enabled cards in the last 6 months.)

I think what you really need is diversification - get a few more credit cards, and use different ones for different stores/locations/purposes. This way your overall risk should reduce.

  • Nearly no-one (or actually no-one?) uses EMV on the retailer side in the US right now, so sadly the EMV-ness of your card isn't very relevant right now. – Joe Jan 16 '15 at 20:04
  • @Joe Actually Visa and MasterCard are rolling out POS upgrades for EMV support in 2015. But again, there is little consumers can do, other than not putting eggs in one basket. – xiaomy Jan 16 '15 at 20:22
  • Yes, they are rolling it out (in October or something). But they're not using it now... – Joe Jan 16 '15 at 20:28
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Not sure if this is a proper answer or a cop-out, but a merchant's inability to properly secure payment data will always be an issue; one which you, the consumer, will never be able to fully address if you want to use credit cards and/or checks.

I use Google Wallet wherever I can, because the POS and the merchant only ever receive the virtual CC (So far, it's only been Mastercard) number that Google owns, rather than my actual credit card information.

Earlier in 2014, another large merchant was breached, so they sent a security bulletin to Discover, and Discover sent me a new card. If any of the merchants I've used Google Wallet at get compromised and send a similar bulletin, I'm not sure that Discover would register my usage at those merchants, since it's all passed through Google.

A few other alternatives:

  • Use cash
  • Set up different card accounts for specific uses (e.g. A card for utilities-recurring payments, a card for POS purchases, a card for one-time phone/online purchases). This quickly becomes a nightmare to manage, though. I believe there are a few banks that allow you to generate virtual credit card numbers in a similar manner, though they may be single-use.
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You should find a new bank. Most banks do not reissue on breaches, so if you were sent a new card after Home Depot, Target, AND Staples breaches, you're in the minority with a bank that is more proactive than others.

Your network (Visa vs. Mastercard vs. Amex) does not matter. The bank will make this call.

As mentioned, cash is almost always accepted.

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