Odds are you’re using a credit card when shopping online — unless you’ve figured out how to teleport cash (if so, tell us!). Credit cards provide a convenient, secure payment option and the process for making online purchases is typically the same across most websites.
This guide outlines the payment process step-by-step, security features and other factors that come up when you want to use a credit card for online purchases.
How to pay with a credit card online
Check the website is secure.Check that the website URL starts with the letters “https:” and has an image of a small padlock, usually in the top left-hand corner.
Select your item(s).Add items to your basket and checkout to pay or keep shopping.
Go to the “checkout”.Look for the shopping icon, often in the top right-hand corner of the web page. This is the checkout page where you’ll provide billing details.
Enter your details.Enter your name, address, contact telephone numbers and email address. Some businesses ask you to create an account when you complete a purchase. You can often do this automatically when you make your first purchase by entering a username and password.
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.
Provide your credit card details.Enter the name on the front of the card, the 16-digit card number, the expiration and the three-digit security code found on the back.
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.
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 need to enter a one-time code sent to your mobile phone.
Keep a copy of the payment confirmation.Most online stores will email you a receipt you can save and print. These details will help you track your order and ensure the correct amount is charged to your card.
Many credit card companies provide 24-hour fraud-monitoring services that’ll contact you if there’s suspicious account activity.
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.
You may have already been pre-enrolled in Verified by Visa, Mastercard SecureCode and American Express Safekey. You need to enter a one-time SMS or email code each time you use your credit card to shop online.
Note that an online merchant must have registered with the program for the service to work.
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.
Is Paypal safer than credit card online?
It depends. You don’t have to re-enter your credit card information when using PayPal, as your information is securely stored in an online vault when making PayPal payments. However, your customer service in the event of a breach may prove less robust than with credit card providers.
Other online payment factors to consider
Consider these factors when shopping online to make your payment experience even safer.
Saved card details. Internet browsers such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari may prompt you to save your details. While this can be convenient, it means your card information will be stored by a third-party service which could be compromised if that account is ever hacked.
Incognito mode. Use the browser’s incognito mode if you’re using a public computer to make a purchase. This will ensure the computer doesn’t save any of your personal information or Internet history during your session.
Declined payments. For whatever reason, if your payment is declined or a payment error message appears, the transaction will not be processed. Your items may remain in your “shopping cart” so you can complete the purchase in the future.
Currency conversion fees. Most credit cards apply a fee of 2% to 4% of the transaction when you make a purchase from an overseas merchant. 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.
Lock your credit card if possible. Many cards allow you to lock the use of your credit card from your account page or bank app.
Call your provider. This is your next step, or your first if you can’t lock your card yourself. They can lock your account and help you along to the next steps.
Review your transaction history. You’ll want to note each transaction that appears suspicious or that you know you didn’t make.
Change your online passwords. If your card information was compromised online, you’ll want to update your login information to secure your accounts.
Thankfully, credit card providers offer a zero liability policy, so you won’t be on the hook for unauthorized charges as long as you report them properly. Check out our credit card security guide for more information on how providers protect consumers.
Compare three cards with security features
Compare credit cards with security protections to find the best option for you.
Making payments with a credit card has become an incredibly common and safe method of making purchases. However, these guidelines can provide you with an extra layer of safety in protecting your information. Learn more about credit card security to keep your finances safe.
Frequently asked questions
Yes. However, credit cards offer a more secure way to make online purchases.
Kyle Morgan is a writer and editor for Finder who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.
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