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How to use a debit card online

Pay for your purchases without stepping foot in a store, but understand the risks.

Using a debit card to pay online is straightforward as long as you’ve got the plastic handy and are comfortable making virtual transactions — though paying with a credit card may be safer.

How to use a debit card online

You’ll need to reference your physical debit card when using it to make a purchase online. After entering the digital shopping cart on the vendor’s website:

  1. Select your payment method. If “debit card” isn’t listed as a payment method, you can typically select “credit card” instead.
  2. Indicate the type of branded debit card you’ll be using, be it Mastercard or Visa debit.
  3. In some cases, you may be asked to enter your name as listed on the card. You’ll also need to include the billing address associated with your debit card.
  4. Enter the 16-digit number on the front of your card.
  5. Enter the expiration date listed below the 16-digit number.
  6. Flip your card over to find the CVV, which is a 3-digit number listed near your authorized signature. American Express cards have the CVV listed as 4 digits on the front of the card.
  7. Confirm your payment.
Debit card schema
1Debit card provider
216-digit card number
3Expiration date

Do I have to use my full name when paying with a debit card online?

The name you enter should match your name as it appears on the debit card. Merchants use this to cross-check your information with the card provider’s records.

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Is it safe to use a debit card online?

Using a debit card to pay online is generally safe with a secure internet connection. In 2019, online sales accounted for an estimated 9% of total retail sales in Canada. Consequently, the safety infrastructure in place is growing stronger.

Here’s what you can do to verify security:

  • Check for the lock. There should be a lock icon in the upper-left corner of the search bar of your screen, next to the web address. This indicates that the site holds an SSL certificate and that the information you submit will be private.
  • Monitor your account. Review your account for suspicious activity after making a debit card purchase online.
  • Ensure a secure Internet connection. The best practice is to only make online payments on a secure and private internet connection, such as a home network. Public Wifi at airports or coffee shops isn’t as safe.

Remember that there are always risks associated with making debit card payments, and it’s likely easier for thieves to intercept your information online than in person. If hackers do get access to your debit card information, they could steal funds from your chequing account.

Paying via credit card vs. debit card online

In general, using a credit card for everyday purchases is less risky because credit cards aren’t linked directly to your bank account. This means you can cancel a transaction before the money is withdrawn from your personal account.

Credit card companies tend to be more lenient with fraudulent transactions, with some providers offering zero-liability for their cardholders, meaning that you aren’t responsible for fraudulent activity if someone steals your card information. Some credit card providers also offer extended warranties on purchases.

If using a debit card is your only option to make a payment online, make sure you’re comfortable with the risks associated.

Bottom line

Using a debit card is convenient and generally safe, although not risk-free. If you’d rather use a credit card, find a provider that offers perks and rewards that work best for you.

Using a debit card online FAQs

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