Use Credit Cards Online Safely

February 20, 2008

Shopping on the internet is growing every year as more people have discovered it. The sheer convenience of sitting at home, clicking your mouse and having your purchases dropped at your front door is hard to resist. You can also compare and buy hard-to-find items that otherwise would be almost impossible to buy locally.

To avoid having your credit card number exposed to possible identity fraud, you do need to take precautions.

Make sure the page you enter your credit card number on is encrypted. Look at the address bar at the top of your browser window and see that it starts with ‘https:‘ . That "S" stands for "secure". If you look at the very bottom of your brower window, you’ll also see a little yellow padlock icon. These are good signs that the page can safely send your cc number with encryption.

My favorite way to use a credit card online is to get a temporary number from my credit card company. I use my MBNA card which is now Bank of America. They have a feature called "Shopsafe". It’s super-easy to use.

When I’m at the check-out page at a web store, I open a new browser window and login to my BOA account. They have a link in there called "Use Shopsafe". When I click it, it pops up a small window where I can put a credit limit and expiration date. Then it randomly creates an account number with the limit I specified and the exp. date. It has that little 3 digit security code, too. That account number can never be used at a different store or have charges on it over my limit. I usually set my limit to $10 over what my payment will be and have it expire in 2 months. I then have the choice to cancel that number or renew it if I plan to shop at that site again (like Amazon!). No one online ever gets my REAL credit card number. This is really handy for a site that has a recurring charge. If you ever want to cancel, you can be sure they stop charging you by simply deleting that number you gave them.

Another option for shopping online and protecting your credit card number is to use Paypal. They will default you to paying from your savings account, but to get the protection your credit card company offers, I always use my credit card as the source of funding. It’s extra steps to change it, but it’s worth the hassel. I only use it when a webstore doesn’t take credit cards. Many small vendors just use the Paypal option.

Keep your scam radar on when you’re shopping online and don’t get into a big hurry entering your information. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. But now that you know how to be safe – go ahead and look for that great deal online.



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