NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for July 2017

By Ellen Cannon Personal Finance NerdWallet.com

The Fourth of July, fireworks and freedom (from school and work) are the highlights of July. And the Nerds have credit card tips to help you enjoy the month.

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Discover freedom, and discover Freedom

Both Discover and Chase offer credit cards that earn 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories, on up to $1,500 spent per quarter, and 1% back on all other spending. July kicks off the third quarter of 2017, so it’s time to activate this quarter’s categories if you haven’t already. The July-August-September bonus category on the Chase Freedom® is “summer fun” — restaurants and movie theaters. Discover also wants you to eat out this quarter, as its cash-back cards have restaurants as their 5% bonus category.

Travel safely with your cards

Whether you’re sightseeing in Europe or spending a week at the beach with family and friends, vacation means you’re out of your normal routine. And that’s when criminals can take advantage of you. Here are four ways to protect yourself:

  • Take only the credit cards you need. Two cards should be enough, and consider carrying them separately from each other. If a thief strikes, it’s much easier to report one lost card than a wallet full of them. Some cards, such as those issued by Discover or Citi, have a feature that lets you lock your card if it’s misplaced or stolen, so no one can use it.
  • Use credit instead of a debit. If someone makes a fraudulent charge on your account, the zero-liability protection that most credit cards offer means you won’t owe anything. But if someone makes a charge with your debit card, the money comes out of your checking account right away, and it may take some time to restore it.
  • Check your credit card activity every day. This isn’t hard to do. Most of the major credit card issuers have apps that make it simple to log in and see what transactions are pending and posted. Many let you set an alert to notify you every time your card is used.
  • Know where your card is. When you’re in vacation mode, it’s easy to forget your card at a restaurant, an ice cream stand or the golf course. Whenever you use it, be sure it goes back in your wallet. If you don’t need your card that day, lock it in the safe in your hotel room with your other valuables.

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While we’re on the subject, if you and your credit card will be away from home, consider giving your issuer a call to let it know. You don’t want your card declined because the issuer’s computers are flagging a far-from-home transaction as suspicious.

Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.