How to Safely Use Your Credit Card Online

Your credit card isn't safe anywhere, especially the internet. When you're shopping online with your credit card, it's important to follow some guidelines to avoid credit card fraud and identity theft.

Only use your credit card on websites you trust.

A man uses his credit card online
© Select Stock / Vetta / Getty

When you shop with your credit card online, it's important that you only go to websites you trust. Avoid clicking on email links, particularly in unsolicited emails, because these links could take you to a fake website that's set up for the sole purpose of stealing your credit card information. Instead, go directly to the real website by typing the URL in your internet browser.

Don't make online credit card purchases from public places.

Public computers and networks are less secure so there's a greater chance that your credit card information can be stolen when you use it to make purchases on a public computer. These computers could have a keylogger software that will capture all your keystrokes, including your login information and credit card number.

You're not safe just because you're using your own computer on a public wifi. Hackers have access to the same wifi signal and can intercept information while it's being transmitted. That means no online ordering while you're using the wifi at your local coffee shop.

Protect your computer from viruses and hackers.

Make sure your computer is protected from hackers that could send your internet browser to a fake website by loading the most recent anti-virus and anti-spyware software onto your computer. Use only reputable anti-virus software, not anything you see in pop-up advertisement or get as a link in an email.

Check with the Better Business Bureau.

If you're using your credit card online at a store you're not familiar with, check the Better Business Bureau or other consumer reports before entering your credit card information. Don't use your credit card at any website that has a poor customer service record with the Better Business Bureau.

Use a credit card online instead of a debit card.

Credit cards offer more protection against fraudulent charges than debit cards. With credit cards, your maximum liability for fraudulent charges is $50. However, with debit card fraud, you could be liable for up to $500.

Not only that, if your debit card is compromised, you could lose access to all the money in your checking account until the bank sorts out the fraud. It could take days to get your funds back. Meanwhile, your bills are coming due and you could face late penalties from the companies you owe. Fraudulent credit card charges don't take anything from your pocket and are easier to deal with.

Make sure the credit card entry page is secure.

Only enter your credit card information on secure websites that will protect your information. You can check a website's security by checking the URL. On the page that you enter your credit card information, the URL in your browser's address bar should begin with "https://" and there should be a lock in the lower right corner.

Print your online credit card receipts.

When you use your credit card online, always print a copy of your receipt or confirmation. Then, compare the amount on your receipt to the amount on your billing statement to make sure the totals match.