Many consumers are concerned about shopping online. While they like the convenience of shopping online, they may wonder whether it’s worth the risk that their payment information could be stolen and used to make unauthorized purchases.
Fortunately, you can enjoy the convenience of online shopping while also protecting your personal payment information. By choosing some of the more secure ways to pay online, you can help prevent your sensitive personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
Here are three options to consider when you are paying online:
1. Disposable credit card number
One of the safest ways to pay online is to use a so-called “virtual” or “disposable” credit card number. These numbers, which you can get from your credit card issuer, are randomly generated digits you can use in place of your real credit card information. You can use them in online and telephone purchase transactions—those in which you don’t need to show your physical credit card.
The biggest advantage to a disposable credit card number is that it can only be used a limited number of times. You might only be able to use it once, or the number might be limited to three to five uses. If someone steals the information, the credit card won’t work.
2. Third-party payment services
You can also use third-party payment services to manage your online payments. Services such as PayPal and Google Wallet allow you to make purchases without having to input your information into a seller’s website. Instead, you keep your information on a single, third-party payment site, select that option at checkout, and let the third-party payment service transfer the funds. As a result, the places where your information might be compromised are limited—the third-party payment service has your information, but the various retailers do not. You can also use some of these services to complete in-store transactions.
3. Prepaid debit cards
Another option for paying online is a prepaid debit card. Prepaid cards can be used like credit cards, but they don’t actually connect to your bank account or credit card account. You can purchase a prepaid card offline and then use it to pay online.
Because the card isn’t tied to your bank account, if someone accesses the card’s information, you only risk losing the preloaded amount, which could be nothing at all if you’ve already spent everything on the card. Depending on the card issuer, some prepaid debit cards also come with fraud protection once you register the card so that if your card is stolen, you can recover your money. You can manage the card by adding funds only when you know you will be making a purchase and not adding more funds than you need at any time.
If you do opt for this route, keep in mind that these cards often have associated fees to activate them and to load money onto them.
Credit vs. debit when paying online
If you’d rather stick with using a standard card for online purchases, you may want to use a credit card rather than a debit card.
That’s because if you use a debit card online and your information is compromised, the money comes out of your bank account, making it unavailable to you until the situation is resolved. When your credit card information is taken and used, it is your line of credit being tapped rather than the funds in your bank account.
Before shopping online, consider the safest ways to pay and verify you’re doing business with a reputable site. Check to see if there is a physical address and phone number for the company listed on the site; review the business’s return policy; and ensure the information is clear should a problem ensue.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.