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How to use a credit card to shop online

Tips every online shopper should know to keep their finances safe when paying with plastic.


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Credit cards are a convenient, secure and popular payment option when you’re shopping online. As well as being widely accepted, most websites have a similar process when you want to pay with your credit card. So, let’s take a look at how it works.

SimplyCash Card from American Express

SimplyCash Card from American Express

19.99 % APR

Purchase interest rate

Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply

SimplyCash Card from American Express

Apply today and earn 2.5% cash back (up to $150 cash back) in the first three months.

  • Purchase interest rate: 19.99%
  • Cash advance rate: 21.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Credit rating: 650+
  • Minimum age: Age of majority in province/territory of residence
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Compare credit cards for online shopping

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
American Express Cobalt Card
Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible grocery stores, restaurants, bars, cafés and food delivery services, and earn 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible gas stations, and on transit and travel purchases, and earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent elsewhere. Terms apply
Earn up to 45,000 bonus Membership Rewards points. In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, earn 2,500 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 on your card (for a total of 30,000 points in a year). Plus, earn a Welcome Bonus of 15,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Apply by May 5, 2021.
BMO World Elite Mastercard
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
Get 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible travel, dining and entertainment purchases (up to $50,000 spend annually), and get 2 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases (and once you reach the $50,000 annual spend).
Get up to $575 in value in your first year. Get a bonus of 40,000 BMO Rewards points ($285 travel value booked on Plus, get the $150 annual fee waived in the first year.
American Express Aeroplan Card
30% annual interest rate applies to balances not paid in full each month
Earn 2x the points on eligible purchases made directly with Air Canada and Air Canada vacations, 1.5x the points on eligible dining and food delivery purchases and 1x the points on everything else.
Earn up to 15,000 Welcome Bonus Aeroplan points and a bonus Buddy Pass as a new cardmember.
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
Earn 10% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $400 in cash back) for the first four months of Cardmembership.
Choice Card from American Express
Earn 1 American Express Membership Point for every $1 you spend on purchases.
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,000 in purchases to your card in the first 3 months of Cardmembership.
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Earn 5x the BMO Points for every $1 spent on groceries, dining in and out, gas and transit.
Get up to 40,000 points and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year. Earn 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and get 15,000 points on your first anniversary.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% intro APR for the first 6 months, 19.95% thereafter
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
Earn 3x the points on eligible purchases made directly with Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations, 2x the points on eligible dining and food delivery purchases in Canada, and 1x the points on everything else.
Earn up to 65,000 Welcome Bonus Aeroplan points and a $100 Statement Credit as a new cardmember.
American Express Business Edge Card
Earn 3 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible business essentials including office supplies, electronics, rides, gas, eats and drinks (up to an annual earn of 75,000 Membership Rewards), and earn 1 Membership Reward point for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases
Earn up to 42,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn a Welcome Bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months, and earn 1,000 Membership Rewards points each month (a total of 12,000 annually) when you spend a minimum of $3,000 on eligible purchases

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How to pay online with a credit card

  1. Check the website is secure. Before you submit your credit card details, make sure you’re shopping on a safe website. Two security signs to look for: Check that the website URL starts with the letters “https:” (the “s” indicates that it’s secure) and has an image of a small padlock, usually in the top left-hand corner.
  2. Select your item/s. You can add items to your basket as you shop.
  3. Go to the “checkout”. When you’re finished shopping and you’re ready to pay, look for the bag or shopping cart icon which is often in the top right-hand corner of the web page. This is the checkout page where you’ll provide all your billing details.
  4. Enter your details. Enter your name, address, phone number and email address. Some businesses ask you to create an account when you complete a purchase. Usually you can do this automatically when you make your first purchase by entering a username and password when prompted. You must enter information in all spaces marked with an Asterisk. Not all online merchants require you to create an account, but it can be useful to do this in order to access your order at any time.
  5. Choose ‘credit card’ as your payment method. You will be prompted to choose how you want to pay. Other options could include debit card, PayPal and bank transfers. You may also be required to select whether you have a Visa, Mastercard or American Express credit card.
  6. Provide your credit card details. Enter the name on the front of the card, the 16-digit card number, the expiry date and the three-digit security code (CVV number) found on the back of the card.
  7. Confirm the payment. Press the “confirm” button to submit your payment. Remember not to hit the button more than once while you’re waiting for the payment confirmation page to load, otherwise you may end up getting charged twice.
  8. Extra security measures. Verified by Visa, Mastercard SecureCode and American Express’s Safekey are additional layers of security you can register for when using your credit card. If one of these services is active, you’ll likely need to enter a one-time code sent to your cell phone.
  9. Keep a copy of the payment confirmation. Most online stores will email you a receipt that you can save and print. You can also print or screenshot the confirmed payment webpage if you prefer, or access your transaction if you made an account. These details will help you track your order and ensure the correct amount is charged to your card. You’ll also need the proof of purchase to dispute the transaction if you don’t get what you paid for.

credit card on top of laptop keyboard

Credit card security features for online shopping

Credit card companies have a range of security measures to protect your account from fraud when you shop online. We’ve outlined these in detail below.

Fraud-monitoring services

Many credit card companies provide 24-hour fraud-monitoring services. These services and teams monitor activity on your account and contact you if they see something suspicious. If a fraud-monitoring service can’t verify a transaction that’s been made on your account, it will be able to temporarily block your account and investigate further to ensure your credit card is protected against unauthorized transactions.

One-time passwords

You may have already been pre-enrolled in Verified by Visa, Mastercard SecureCode and American Express Safekey. These anti-fraud services make it virtually impossible for fraudsters to use your credit card. You need to enter a one-time SMS or email code each time you use your credit card to shop online. However, these services don’t cover all of your online purchases. An online merchant must have registered with the program for the service to work. However when they’re applicable, these services add an extra layer of security to the online payment process.

Zero liability guarantees

American Express, Mastercard and Visa provide zero liability guarantees to cover you for fraudulent credit card use in-store, over the phone and online. Note that these liability guarantees do not cover cash advance fraud. If you’re the victim of credit card fraud, contact your credit card provider immediately to dispute the transaction.

Other factors to consider

When using your credit card to shop online, keep these factors in mind to protect your finances.

  • Saving your card details. You may be asked if you want to save your credit card details for the next time you shop. Internet browsers such as Firefox or Safari may also prompt you to save your details. While this can be a convenient option, it also means your card information will be stored by a third-party service and could be compromised if that account is ever hacked.
  • Declined payments. If your payment is declined due to insufficient credit, a processing error or another reason, a payment declined or payment error message will appear and the transaction will not be processed. Your items may remain in your cart for a certain amount of time so you can complete the purchase in the future.
  • Website security. Look for the padlock and “https” letters in the website URL. These show the merchant is encrypting your personal information when it charges your credit card.
  • Currency conversion fees. Most credit cards apply a fee of 2-4% of the transaction when you make a purchase from an overseas merchant. This fee may apply even if the transaction is processed using Canadian dollars. If you regularly shop with international retailers online, you may want to consider a card with $0 foreign transaction fees to save money on this cost.

A credit card can get you almost anything you want on the Internet. It also offers security against fraud and unauthorized transactions. With the above facts and tips in mind, you can now make credit card purchases online safely and securely any time you want.

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