Protect Your Financial Privacy

Don't toss those privacy policy notices from credit cards -- unless you want your personal information shared.

I keep getting privacy forms for my credit cards, and they're confusing. For example, the form on my Citibank cards has these two choices: "limit the personal information about me that you disclose to nonaffiliated third parties" or "limit the personal information about me that you share with Citigroup affiliates." Can I choose both options?

You can, and you probably should. Since 2001, financial institutions have been required to send their customers annual notices about their privacy policies and to give them a chance to opt out of having their personal information shared with other companies. If you don't act, the financial institutions can share information about your assets, income, debt levels and mortgage payments, in addition to your name and address.

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.