Personal Finance

Big changes are coming for credit cards

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If you make one New Year's resolution this year, pledge to pay closer attention to your credit card.

"Next year is shaping up to be the biggest year for credit card changes since the Credit CARD Act came out and shook things up in 2009," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for

One of the biggest changes—EMV technology—will put new credit cards in most shoppers' hands by the end of 2015. Computer chips embedded in these cards generate a unique transaction code every time you use them for a purchase, offering greater protection against fraud. There's no need to apply for a new credit card to snag one, said Schulz. Issuers are already mailing them out.

As a side effect of the new high-tech cards, shoppers may find there's also more opportunity to use a mobile wallet, said Schulz. Many of the new point-of-sale terminals that retailers are installing to read the new chip cards also work with the technology behind Apple Pay and other mobile wallets.

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Even with the added security measures, though, monitoring your credit card statements is still going to be important. "We're definitely in this transition period where issuers are putting out these cards but not everybody has them," said Schulz. "Stores don't all have the terminals, and those that do haven't all turned them on." Until then, hackers can still commit the same kind of large-scale data breaches shoppers have seen plenty of in recent years at chains including Target, Home Depot and Michael's.

Save Me: Credit card perks that save money
Save Me: Credit card perks that save money

You may also want to think again whether you have the right cards in your wallet, in light of the potential for rising interest rates. "It's fairly certain we're going to have a rate hike," said Curtis Arnold, founder of "We don't know when or how much, but everyone seems certain it's going to happen next year."

If you're carrying a balance, consider hunting down a fixed-rate card because the rates won't fluctuate like those of variable-rate cards. They're rare, but a few community banks and credit unions still offer them. Or look into balance transfer offers. "Those are typically fixed-rate offers, and a lot of them go out 18 months," Arnold said.

Whatever option you choose, take action before the Fed announces a rate hike—something many Fed watchers expect will happen next summer. When that happens, Arnold said, "offers can often switch literally overnight."

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While you're checking terms, take a hard look at your card benefits. Rewards have gotten more enticing in recent months. In addition to valuable ones that consumers often miss, like price adjustments and extended manufacturer's warranties, many cards now include regular free looks at your credit score, said Kevin Yuann, credit cards director for

Discover Card, Barclaycard US and First Bankcard have already announced programs, and Citibank said recently it will start sharing scores with cardholders in January. You can also use free score estimators like and, or purchase score access outright through myFICO.