By Julie Watts

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The holiday shopping season also tends to be a season for fraud.

From hacks at retailers to credit card skimmers, these days it’s not a matter of if but when your card is compromised.

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‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, you can almost hear the chorus of credit cards.

Turns out that’s actually the best way to protect yourself this holiday season, that and leave your debit card at home.

When Michelle noticed $500 from her checking account was used to pay someone else’s credit card, she immediately reported the fraud.

She was advised that the money would be returned within 12 hours.

But one month later the money was still missing.

And with every call, the same response: The claim was being processed and it would be one to two business days before the account would be credited.

Frustrated, she contacted us and we contacted Chase. And it still took another five days before they finally credited her account.

It can take banks weeks or months to put that money back in your account.

Nerd wallet’s Sean McQuay says Michelle’s story should serve as a warning for holiday shoppers.

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Use credit cards instead of a debit cards whenever possible.

A debit card is a representation of your checking account. It’s effectively cash.

You can miss major payments like mortgage or rent checks that can damage your credit.

Unlike credit cards, which carry zero liability for fraud, you may be liable for up to $50 dollars for debit card fraud. And that’s if you notify the bank right away. If you don’t notice the charge for 48 hours, you’re liable for up to $500. Longer than 60 days, you’re liable for the whole thing.

The best way to avoid fraud: Use your chip instead of swiping.

Too slow? You can also pay by phone, Apple Android and Samsung Pay both have chip-level security.

But the best way to protect your hard earned cash if your card is compromised?

Learn a lesson from Michelle.

“During my holiday shopping this year I will definitely use by credit card verses my debit card,” Michelle said.

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Chase apologized for the delay, which it says was caused by a system error. The bank says it is investigating the incident.