Is It Safe to Use My Credit Card Online?

By ShawnTe Pierce

  • Overview

    Online purchasing is a convenience for our hectic lives. Merchants offering discounts that are only available online further encourage us to shop online. The only problem with online shopping is that cash is not used for payment. With credit cards being the preferred method of payment for online retailers many consumers are concerned about the safety of online purchasing.
  • Fraudulent Activity With Online Purchasing

    The first concern that may enter your mind regarding the safety of using your credit card online will be about unauthorized charges. The media reports on cases where hackers infiltrate online merchant's records, pseudo-viruses that track account information and a host of other scams that occur online. Credit card associations offer fraudulent charge protection beyond the federal standard of up to $50. Credit card issuers initiate a process called a chargeback wherein your issuing bank gathers documentation from you and presents the case to the merchant charging them back for the transaction. In the case of unauthorized or fraudulent transactions, the cardholder signs an affidavit specifically claiming that the charge was initiated without their knowledge and participation. However, you must be aware that unless you are making a purchase online do not give your credit card number to anyone or any company. Be advised that if you give your credit card number for age verification, free trial memberships, or any other non-purchase purpose, the merchant can still charge your account. Even though the merchant may have stated your card will not be charged, by presenting your credit card number you are by default giving the merchant permission to charge your card. This scenario is still fraud but it is not technically an unauthorized charge, because you participated by given the merchant your credit card number. Keep this in mind if you have to dispute a charge in a similar situation because if you declare the charge to be unauthorized to your issuing bank and they proceed to dispute the charge as such, they will lose the case. The merchant will have record that you gave them your credit card information, and the issuer now has no recourse to fight on your behalf. Remember that prudence and honesty on your part will reduce online fraudulent charges on your card.
  • Online Safety for Credit Card Use for Authorized Transactions

    Credit cards also offer protection beyond fraudulent activity. The merchant dispute process offers additional protection for certain categories of authorized transactions. However, it is wise to always make a good faith attempt for a maximum of 30 days to resolve the issue with the merchant. If on day 31 the merchant still has not remedied the matter then dispute the charge with your issuer. Visit your credit card brand website for detailed overviews regarding online security.


  • Damaged Merchandise

    Merchandise delivered damaged can be disputed. This dispute category is even stronger for deliveries that are not signed for. If you receive a delivery where the package is damaged, do not sign for it without having the shipper open the package so you can inspect the product. If the shipper does not allow for this, then call the merchant with the details of what damage your merchandise has and give them the delivery information (time, location and name of driver, if possible). Whether or not the merchant agrees to accept the merchandise back you must return it. Failure to do so limits your issuing bank's ability to dispute the transaction for you. A rule of thumb is if you keep the merchandise, you must accept it as is. Be aware that return shipping costs cannot be disputed, only the value of the charge for the damaged goods.
  • Non-Receipt of Merchandise or Service

    If you don't receive goods or services by the agreed-upon delivery date, you have a valid reason to dispute a transaction. If a delivery date was not agreed upon before the transaction was completed, then 30 days after the date of the transaction, you can dispute the charge. Your bank can only dispute the charge once the merchant has had at least 30 days to either render service, send goods or credit your account. On day 31, you may dispute the charge as long as you tried to settle matters with the merchant first.
  • Cancelled Transactions

    Transactions or services that are canceled according to the merchant's written policies can be disputed as well. As the consumer it is your responsibility to read the terms and conditions that come along with any transaction prior to giving your credit card information. If the merchant allows for cancellation of an order and you canceled within their written cancellation policy, your bank has power to dispute the charge. You will be able to dispute the transaction 30 days after cancellation if no credit appears on your account. If you canceled service(s) that will result in a recurring charge, the cancellation must follow the merchant's cancellation policy. Telephone cancellations are hard to prove, therefore always request the name of the person you talk to and request for a confirmation number. If you cancel via letter or email retain a copy of the cancellation. For online cancellations obtain a copy of the cancellation confirmation. Always keep proof of cancellation and dispute the charge 30 days after you cancel services if a credit is not awarded to your account.
  • Product or Service Not As Described or Advertised

    You can dispute a transaction for which goods or serviced received are not as advertised or described. This is a hard case for issuers to fight on your behalf; therefore it is important to be honest about the details and have as much proof as you can gather to help your case out. You need to try to resolve the matter with the merchant first. If you have the merchandise, you need to return it to the merchant, most likely at your own cost, and retain proof of it. You still will need to wait 30 days after returning the merchandise before disputing the charge if the merchant still has not credited your account.
  • Putting It All Together

    Credit card safety regarding online purchases is a valid concern to have. There are unscrupulous people who do steal credit card information online; however this happens for face-to-face transactions as well. You also have to take responsibility for your credit card safety online as well. Read terms and condition of purchases, never give your credit information out unless you are making a purchase, be honest about the circumstances of the transactions and immediately report when fraud has occurred. You are ultimately responsible for your credit card security. Be prudent, honest and vigilant while shopping online. By staying on your P's and Q's online shopping can be a convenient thing with extra rewards not found with face-to-face transactions.
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