The average American holds more than 10 credit cards, according to credit bureau Experian. However, many don't carry all those cards at once and instead keep them stashed at home in random drawers, in a desk or even on a countertop, completely unprotected from theft.
"Consumers often leave one or two cards at home to avoid a bulging wallet or the temptation of using them on an impulse purchase," says Alexis A. Moore, a cybercrime and ID theft expert and founder of Survivors In Action, a national crime victim agency.
"There's a trick to keeping the cards you're not carrying safe from prying eyes and would-be identity thieves," says Joel Ohman, a certified financial planner and identity theft expert. The secret: Get creative with your hiding spots. "If you don't keep your credit cards in a locked, fireproof safe, forgo places like medicine cabinets, the freezer and your underwear drawer. Experienced criminals know those common hiding spots for valuables."
Here are the best spots experts say you should consider stashing your plastic in when it's not in our wallet.
Envelope with fake label
The next time you're at the post office, or a FedEx shipping location, grab an extra overnight envelope. "Put your cards in the envelope and seal it. Then write on the outside with marker 'pet immunization records' to deter would-be identity thieves," suggests Issamar Ginzberg, an adviser on business strategy to entrepreneurs.
Under the drawers
Forks and spoons -- not credit cards -- belong in kitchen drawers. "Next to your underwear drawer, that's the worst place to keep credit cards. Food belongs in the kitchen, not your financial life," says Cate Williams, certified credit counselor and national spokeswoman for Money Management International. "Stuffing cards in high-traffic drawers or shelves, etc., increases the odds someone will stumble upon them."
Dana Korey, professional organizer and owner of Away With Clutter has a unique alternative. "Put the cards in an envelope and seal it. If you have a home office with a desk drawer, tape the envelope underneath a desk drawer. Thieves might look in a drawer but rarely under it," she says. You can also do this in your bedroom. "Very few burglars will think to look under a sock drawer for credit cards or other valuables."
Just in case someone does stumble upon the envelope, Ginzberg says you shouldn't label it "credit cards." Write "photos of grandma" or "medical receipts" to defer attention. "You should also wrap the cards in a few sheets of paper to conceal the raised numbers," he says.
The shoebox safe
A shoebox in the back of your closet is another great home for the cards you don't carry every day. "You can also tape them under the sole of an old pair of shoes," says Ginzberg. Pick a pair you're fond of but don't wear anymore to reduce the risk you'll donate the shoes to Goodwill. "Again, labeling the box with something benign but that will trigger your memory helps," he says.
Stashed in a book
Stash your cards between the jacket cover and the cover flap of your favorite book. Robert Siciliano, a McAfee security consultant and identity theft expert, says you can put them all in one book, or scatter them in a few, but remember, putting them in random books increases the odds that you'll forget where they are. Keep the book on your bookcase's highest shelf to keep small children from accidentally pulling it off the shelf.
The secret laundry bottle
"Save one empty, big laundry detergent bottle and fill it with sand or rocks so it doesn't tip over. Tape an envelope with your cards to the back of that and store it on a shelf in your laundry room or basement," says Korey. "You can also use a faux can that resembles a popular cleaning product and place that on a shelf with your other products," says Ginzberg.
Inside a photo frame
Korey says "hiding" your cards can be accomplished in plain sight, too. "You can tuck them behind a picture in a photo frame that sits on the piano or coffee table." Framed art hung on the wall -- as long as it's not something that might catch a thief's eye -- also works. "College degrees and diplomas are similar great hiding spots for credit cards and valuable paperwork," says Korey. Ohman stresses that while it's imperative to keep your cards safe at home, there's another step to protecting your credit. "Be sure to have the numbers and expiration dates of all the cards in a separate location, like a safe or safety deposit box in the event you need to cancel them or contact the issuer."
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