How to Shop Online Without a Credit Card

A woman is shopping online without a credit car
© Sam Edwards / OJO Images / Getty

Online shopping is one of the most convenient ways to make purchases. You can compare prices for the best deal, read reviews before making purchases, and never have to make yourself presentable for getting out in public. But, to make online purchases, you must have a payment method that’s accepted over the internet. This typically means a credit card, but there are ways to shop online even without a credit card.

Debit cards can be used to shop online as long as the card has a Visa or MasterCard logo. Input the 16-digit card number along with the expiration date, security code, and billing address (the address where you receive your bank statements). The funds for the transaction will be deducted from the checking account linked to the debit card. If you don’t have a debit card, contact your bank about adding one to your existing checking account. Or visit a local bank to open a new checking account and request a debit card.

Prepaid cards are similar to debit cards, except funds are loaded onto an account associated with the card, not a checking account. Make sure the prepaid card has a major credit card network logo – Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express. Prepaid cards are a great option for those who can’t (or don’t want to) get a checking account or credit card. You can apply for a prepaid card online or visit a local retailer like CVS, Walgreen, Chevron, or Walmart.

Gift cards with a major credit card network, e.g. Visa or MasterCard, can be used at any online store that accepts payment from that network. You can also use a retail specific gift card to shop online, but typically only at that retailer’s website. For example, a Macy’s gift card can be used at Macy’s.

You can purchase gift cards in the same places as prepaid cards. Many of these locations also sell retailer-specific gift cards, but of course, you can also purchase these directly from the retailer.

Paypal. You can link a Paypal account to your checking account using your checking account and routing number and purchases will be deducted from your checking account. If you have a Paypal balance, for example, from gifts, sales, or other money transfers, purchases will typically deduct from the balance first and then from your checking account. Paypal’s website has a list of online retailers that accept Paypal as a payment method.

Your checking account. Though it’s not common, a few retailers let you use your checking account and routing information to make purchases. Check the payment options for the retailer to confirm you can use your checking information. Linking your checking account to Paypal or requesting a debit card from your bank will give you more flexibility to make online purchases.

Borrow someone else’s card. You may have a friend or relative who’s willing to let you use their credit or debit card for your online purchases as long as you give them the cash. When you use this option, be sure to enter the correct billing address so the payment will process correctly.

However, note that some retailers may not allow shipping to different billing and shipping addresses because of the increased risk of fraud. Some credit card issuers may flag the transaction as fraud. Indicating the purchase as a gift can dodge this problem.

Fraud protections are strongest for credit cards, so be careful shopping online with alternate payment methods. Always verify that you’re on a legitimate website. If hackers get access to your checking account or an account linked to your checking account, they can steal your money. While you may be able to recover most of the funds stolen from a checking account if you report the fraud in a timely manner, prepaid cards and gift cards don’t offer the same protections.