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Just for the heck of it, go through your purse and see how many credit and debit cards you have that you have not signed on the back. Now think of what could happen if your purse fell into the wrong hands. The criminal would not even have to practice signing your name; all he or she would have to do is sign it and start using it. The signature would match perfectly.

People have all types of excuses for not signing their cards. Some just forget. Sometimes it is difficult to find a pen that works on the signature box. Sometimes the signature has worn off. Sometimes they have been told that it is safer not to sign the card. As you can see by the above paragraph, that is not true at all.

Some people don’t sign their card because they mistakenly think that a store clerk who doesn’t see a signature on a card will ask for some further identification, but from experience I can tell you that not all store clerks check the back of the card.

If you look at the back of your credit and debit cards, it generally says “Void if not signed.” If it is not imprinted on the card, it is often printed on the form that your card arrives on. What that means is that the credit card company requires you to sign the card before a store clerk has to accept the card. It is not good enough for you to sign the card in the clerk’s presence; it is supposed to be signed prior to the transaction.

The safest thing you can do is sign the back of your card and write “See ID” or “CID”. That way the store clerk is supposed to ask you for an ID to compare at least your signature, if not also your picture, to be sure that you are who you say you are. Just remember that if you put that on the back of your card, and the clerk asks to see your ID, you should have the ID ready, or at least, not give the clerk a hard time for asking to see your ID.

During the holiday season you want to take extra care with your credit and debit cards. Take only the card/s you need for that shopping trip. If you are doing a debit transaction using your pin number, be sure to shield your pin number as you enter it into the card machine. Be sure that you do not forget to take your card back at the end of the transaction. When you put your card back into your purse, put it securely into your purse, not just absentmindedly shoved into the most convenient open pocket. Make it difficult for someone to take your card.

Also remember that every time you use a credit or a debit card, the merchant has to pay the card company a fee. The fee is higher if you use a rewards card since it is really the merchant who is funding your reward, not the card company. On small purchases, the fees might cost the merchant all or most of his profit on the item you are buying. Wal-Mart can absorb that cost, but the smaller merchants cannot. Cash is always a good way to purchase something. It helps you stay in your budget.

One last reminder – for every $1 spent at a local independent shop, 68 cents stays in the community. For every $1 spent at a big box store, 43 cents stays in the community. Often for internet sales, nothing comes back to the community. Where you decide to shop helps your community with funds to pay for needed services, or forces communities to decide where to cut. For more info see www.the3/