Credit cards offer safety in buying online
When it comes to buying online, credit cards are the only way
"The bottom line is that people feel a lot safer (using credit
cards)," says Linda Sherry, spokeswoman for Consumer Action,
a nonprofit advocacy and education group. "Much as I advocate
pay-as-you-go, when shopping online or with merchants you don't
know, a credit card is a lot safer."
But not all cards are created equal. Depending on your card brand
and the issuing bank, your plastic may offer some, all or none of
Zero liability: Offered by
credit card issuers, including Visa, MasterCard, DiscoverCard and
American Express. When someone steals your credit card and makes
charges without your permission, you are responsible for the first
$50. But if your card offers "zero liability," you're
not responsible at all. Downside: Some cards require that you adhere
to certain rules, like reporting the fraud within a certain length
of time, so it pays to know how your card works.
One-time use/virtual or temporary numbers:
Offered by credit card issuers, including Discover; also by some
banks, including MBNA. You download a piece of software from your
card's site or go to the site and login to your account and get
a "disposable" number, good for one online purchase only.
The downside: Some cards will let you use these for recurring charges
(like that monthly club membership) for up to a year, others won't.
And you can't use them to pay for things online that you will pick
up in person, such as airline tickets. The reason: Many times merchants
want to verify that you're the person who paid for the goods, and
will ask you to show the card you used for the purchase. With a
disposable number, the two won't match.
Extra passwords: Offered
by credit card issuers, including Visa and MasterCard. Similar to
the system you use when you sign in for your e-mail. With this program,
you include an extra password, known only to you and the card company
or bank, when you buy from certain online merchants. The downside:
not every e-tailer who accepts the card online participates in the
program. So technically, if someone steals your number, they could
still use it plenty of places online without knowing your password.
Bottom line: Read the fine
print and choose your card carefully before you point, click and
Pick a card, any card
mart consumers always reach for a credit card when they buy online
because cards offer charge-back rights and a shopper's liability is
limited to $50 in case of fraud or theft.
Zero liability adds another layer of armor. When it comes to shielding
a consumer from online fraud or theft, "the greatest tool is
zero liability," says Michael Yakel, vice president, emerging
product management at Visa USA.
But no matter how popular Internet shopping becomes, there are
still those who don't feel comfortable putting their private financial
information into the ether.