Best Practices for Online Shopping with Credit Cards

  • 5 min read

When you shop on line and store your credit card information online, you put the security of your card information in the hands of someone else. Furthermore, the information is being transmitted over a connection and may be going into the hands of a malicious company if you shop on untrustworthy sites. If you’re going to shop online then you should be careful.

Here are some best practices to help keep yourself and your information secure.

  • Give preference to reputable companies. It is easy to set up an online store and a credible looking scam. If you’ve never heard of the website or company, then do a little background research before buying from them.
  • Watch the web addresses or URLs of the sites that you visit. Most reputable sites will intentionally use short and clean names. If you see a name that is trying to imitate a major company, be suspicious.
  • Shop on sites that use the HTTPS protocol. You can see that the site has https by looking at the very start of the URL. Depending on your browser, a more secure company will also buy a verified SSL certificate which may be presented by a locked padlock. If you see that a site has a verified SSL certificate and HTTPS protocol, then you can know that your transaction and credit card information is going to a website that has been authenticated.
  • Remove your credit card from the website after you use it once. Websites like Amazon.com or Newegg.com offer to store your credit card information so that you don’t need to reenter it on every reuse, but that is unwise.

Paying Online With Credit Cards Versus Debit Cards

When it comes to making online purchases, consumers should be aware of the advantages that they are able to gain by paying with their credit card, as opposed to their debit card. 

Some financial experts advise against using a debit card online, due to the fact that it has a direct connection with your personal bank account. When you leave your personal account information exposed in such a manner, you are placing yourself at risk for an identity theft.

The Federal Reserve’s Reg E (Regulation E) is responsible for the coverage of all debit card related transfers. However, the consumer’s liability is set a mere 50 dollars. The 50 dollar liability is only available to the consumer if they are able to report the theft of their debit card number within 48 hours.

With a credit card, the consumer is more thoroughly protected. They do not have to worry about asking a bank to refund money that was spent by a person who gained access to their debit card unlawfully.  Debit cards have more risk.

Dangerous Convenience of Online Shopping

Brick-and-mortar retailers all over the world are seeing a slump in their sales, and it’s largely thanks to the increase in online shopping. Online retailers like Amazon, Overstock.com, and eBay have redefined what it means to compete on price, and the technology behind these companies is getting more efficient and powerful by the day.

Of course, online retailers have another advantage beyond price: convenience. It’s hard to resist that amazing sale price when it lands right in front of you on your laptop or smart phone. To make things even worse, the buying process is so streamlined that we barely have to give it a passing thought; simply touch a screen a couple of times and the product is on its way.

Many financial advisors and debt specialists have labeled Amazon’s one-click ordering system a “crime against frugality” for good reason. It’s hard to stick to a budget when that new, must-have gadget could be yours just by pushing one little button!

Professional credit counselors have been dealing with this issue for some time now, since one of the major issues that they help with is consumer debt and mounting credit card bills. They’ll be the first to admit that the convenience and speed of online shopping can be a danger to your financial health; they’re also happy to share a few workarounds to stem the tide of debt:

  • Disconnect your credit and bank cards from online retailers’ sites. Just adding the extra steps of manually entering your credit card information with each purchase can help prevent listless shopping.
  • Stay out of the online stores when you’re bored or killing time. It might seem like online window shopping is a good way to pass a couple of hours, but it’s a sure path to temptation. Those sites don’t exist to entertain; they’re there to convince you to spend money . . . and they’re very good at it.
  • Don’t buy the product you’re eyeballing right away unless you really need it. It’s fine to add it to your shopping cart, but let it linger there for a few days before finalizing the purchase. That buying urge will often subside if you give it some time to cool down.

These are all great tips to prevent overspending online, but what about those of us who are already in debt thanks to too many trips through the PayPal fast lane? Well, one of the key services that credit counselors provide is assistance with getting out from under that burden.

A credit counselor helps their clients formulate spending plans and budgets, and they’re experienced with all manner of cost-cutting and income-boosting tips and tricks. They can even help develop a plan for debt consolidation if it’s deemed necessary.

Of course, the first thing they’re likely to advise a client to do is put the brakes on any frivolous shopping. Since that’s something we can all do right away, it’s a good idea to employ the above online shopping tips before we get in over our heads.

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Christopher - BSc, MBA

With over two decades of combined Big 5 Banking and Agency experience, Christopher launched Underbanked® to cut through the noise and complexity of financial information. Christopher has an MBA degree from McMaster University and BSc. from Western University in Canada.