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 Just as in other areas of daily life, when it comes to financial services, people demand convenience. Consumers expect to have access to their funds any time of the day or night and in a variety of ways.

 Many of the services that used to be handled over the counter now are handled electronically. The convenience of plastic cards has changed the way we manage our money, conduct our banking and pay for purchases.

 We learn from a young age how to handle cash properly. Nowadays most of us have to learn how to use plastic cards properly and, also, to understand the correct use of electronic banking services.

Protecting Your Plastic Cards:

 Card issuers go to great lengths to ensure card security and cardholder privacy. As a cardholder, you must take certain steps and precautions. Remember, plastic cards take the place of cash and should be handled just as carefully.

 Here are a few general tips to help you protect the plastic cards issued in your name:

1. Make photocopies of all your cards. This is better than recording a list of numbers. Keep the photocopies in a safe place, so that if your cards are lost or stolen you will have a handy record. Store the copies with your cardholder agreements.

2. Always carry your cards on you or leave them in a safe place at home. Never leave them unattended; for example, in your desk at work.

3. Report a lost or stolen card immediately. Any delay may increase your liability in the event that the card is used by someone else.

4. Do not lend a card to anyone.

5. Be absolutely certain that you are dealing with a reputable company, before giving out a card number over the phone. When doing so, make certain you are not being overheard.

6. Keep the paper copies of all sales and transaction records until you receive a statement. Check the records against the statement to verify accuracy, then destroy the paper copies.

7. If you must give out personal information (for loans and rental agreements, for example) that includes details on your cards, make sure you know how the information will be used and that it will be kept confidential.

8. When traveling for business or pleasure, take only those cards you know you will need and the numbers of phone hotlines to notify the companies if your cards are lost or stolen.

9. Never share your card or Personal Identification Number (PIN) with anyone else. Always keep your PIN completely confidential. Memorize it-don't write it down.

10. Memorize your PIN, so that you will always key it in properly at the ATM or at the retail counter. If you select your own PIN, do choose a number that is easy to remember, but don't choose a number that is related to you in some way, such as your birth date. Don't use the same number for any other purpose or as an access code for another electronic service.

 Taking these precautions on a regular basis will ensure you safely enjoy all the conveniences that plastic cards provide.

Using Your Debit Card:

 Learning how to use the service is easy because the procedure is similar to the one used at ATMs. After your purchase has been totaled, you hand your card to the cashier, who runs it through a card reader. The cashier hands you a small keypad that resembles the keypad on ATMs.

 After that it is simply a matter of following the instructions on the keypad's message screen to key in your Personal Identification Number (PIN), to designate the account you want the funds to be withdrawn from and to authorize the transaction.

 When using the card for a retail purchase, of course, you will have to have sufficient funds in your account, a message on the keypad will inform you if you do not have enough. Knowing it beforehand will save time and potential embarrassment.

 Finally, remember that with convenience comes responsibility. Efficient use of your debit card and all your other plastic cards involves protecting them and using them properly.
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