Does the issuer matter?
Given their zero-liability policies, the cards in your wallet that are branded by the major networks -- Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover -- are likely to provide more protections than cards with smaller networks.
"Hackers go after big databases over smaller databases," Sileo says, so, yes, they're more likely to target a large financial institution over a small one. "But the opposite side of that is smaller-to-midsize banks have less security," he says.
While it can be hard to tap an issuer as the most vulnerable, Javelin Strategy & Research conducts a study evaluating the 24 largest issuers relating to fraud prevention, detection and resolution. In 2013, Bank of America was awarded best in class; USAA was awarded best in prevention; and Wells Fargo was awarded best in detection. Associated Bank and SunTrust tied for best in resolution.
"Bank of America consistently improves their fraud prevention and security capabilities in order to address the most current trends," says Al Pascual, senior analyst of fraud and security with Javelin Strategy & Research.
Two-way alerts, where a consumer is notified of suspicious activity and prompted for a confirmation, along with customer-defined controls pre-emptively setting transaction limits, are "immensely powerful and timely capabilities," Pascual says. So, if your bank offers these alerts or services, it's a good sign.