If you rely on a bank account in the United States to receive money while living abroad, then protecting that debit card from fraud or misuse is important. Of course, there are good reasons why an expat in Costa Rica would want to keep a bank account in the United States.
But, a debit card from the United States is not always an easy thing to replace. Since Real ID regulations, your bank may insist on mailing a replacement debit card to your stateside address. If you have moved abroad or just receive statements online, then the bank may insist on an in-person visit to a branch in the United States. This becomes an issue when the card expires or is compromised.
Simple Method to Protect Your Debit Card
Unfortunately, it’s quite easy to “compromise” your debit card in Costa Rica, as one Facebook Group member discovered when he paid for his insurance renewal at the Banco de Costa Rica. Either his card number was stolen in the process or the bank software collected the card number and proceeded to bleed the account dry with multiple erroneous charges.
The moral of the story is to never make a transaction with a debit card that requires the card number. You should put a piece of opaque tape over the card number, and make make card number transactions with a credit card, instead of a bank debit card.
Less Restrictions for Credit Cards
Unlike a debit card, when you are the victim of fraud or “innocent” banking mistake it’s the bank’s money that goes missing and not your checking account balance. You still have to report a complaint online, and perhaps get a replacement card. However, because the rules for credit cards are more flexible, most issuers will send a replacement card to just about any post office box in the world.
If using a credit card isn’t an option for you, then consider only using POS terminals that connect with the chip on your debit card. If the merchant can’t bring the chip terminal to you, then pay with cash or take your business elsewhere.
Stay Safe and Use the Chip
Chip transactions use a one-time digital signature of a cryptographic hash value. If that sounds complicated, then pay attention to the key word, which is one-time. It means that the merchant doesn’t have a record of your card number. Additional charges require having the card inserted and authorized again in their terminal.
Just be sure to keep that magnetic strip away from any antiquated point of sale terminals, which still do capture the card number, never use the card number for online purchases, and for love of Jesus Cristo and Santísima Trinidad, NEVER give up the debit card!