Some consumers like being able to make their credit cards unique, just like their shoes, their smartphone cases and even their cars. But is it a good idea? Is there a downside to putting an image that makes you smile (your toddler) or, better yet, a security advantage in putting your own mug on your own card?
Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911, says it’s more of a security risk than a potential advantage, though that has not always been true. “For a period of time people put their pictures on credit cards to help with authentication,” Levin said. “I remember that Citicards touted that as a security feature.” (Citi is not the only issuer that offers this feature.)
But that’s just for in-person purchases when someone asks to see your card. In many transactions, your card never need leave your hand as you swipe or dip it yourself. In that case, no clerk will see the picture on your card, so your face on your credit card is not going to be very useful for security.
It can, however, be a way you accidentally compromise your privacy, which means as much as you love your favorite vacation spot or even your puppy, you might want to think twice about putting them on your credit card. Sometimes harmless-looking images can give clues to the answers of your security questions for financial accounts, email, etc. (Where did you go on your honeymoon? The image on your card might give a thief a hint.)
The bottom line? “I think it’s unwise to put any picture on a credit card which contains anything that could be a clue to your life,” Levin said. “If you want to do a picture of a flower, fine. Beyond that, anything you post on a credit card could lead to a secret question or answer.”
If you still want a card that doesn’t look like everyone else’s, issuers have stock photos you can choose from. Or, if you want to use one of your own images, think hard about what information about you or your family the image might reveal. Think creatively — identity thieves do.
Thinking like an identity thief is just part of keeping your credit and identity safe. Check your credit reports regularly (you are entitled to a free annual report from each of the three credit-reporting agencies), and check your credit scores, which you can get for free on Credit.com, regularly for any major changes. Keep tabs on charges to your credit cards, too, because monitoring account activity can help you spot any sort of misuse early, and put a stop to it before your credit is damaged.
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- 3 Dumb Things You Can Do With Email