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How to safely use a credit card to pay for online purchases
Knowing these simple tips can give you peace of mind.
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.
Why is a credit card safe for online shopping?
Credit card companies have a range of security measures to protect your account from fraud when you shop online.
- Fraud-monitoring services
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.
- One-time passwords
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.
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.
Back to top
A credit card can get you almost anything you want on the Internet. It also offers security against fraud and unauthorized transactions. So with these facts and tips in mind, you can now make credit card purchases online any time you want.
“What do I do if my card is compromised?”
If you have reason to believe your card is compromised, call your issuer and freeze your account. They can help you reverse charges you think may have been made fraudulently, and set you up with a new card.
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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.
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