At the start of the millennium, online shopping was like an adventure to discover new, unseen land. Fast forward a couple of decades, and everyone shops online at retail websites, a practice the pundits have come up with a term for – eCommerce.
6 Modern Options for Making Online Purchases
A critical catalyst in the explosion of eCommerce has been the evolution of payment methods for online purchases. But before we delve into those payment methods, buyers must understand a critical aspect of online transactions – staying safe.
It is never a bad idea to know the basics of staying safe while shopping online. As it turns out, this is quite simple – find out how by following the tips below.
- Avoid purchasing using an unfamiliar WiFi connection – When using public/unsecured WiFi, you offer a backdoor that could compromise your sensitive data. Patient hackers logged in to the same WiFi network might be waiting to steal your website passwords and credit card details. It is, therefore, best to return home first and splurge later.
- Use websites you trust and that are reputable – Like people, eCommerce websites vary in their trustworthiness. What happens when an ad suddenly pops on Facebook or Instagram, offering you a Full-HD Sony TV at 10% of its actual price? Scent a scam. Besides ripping you off, the advertiser’s website could steal your financial data – and then disappear after a few days. You won’t get your dream television. Instead, you’ll get a few fraudulent transactions popping up in your statements.
- Keep your devices and apps updated – Keeping your computer and your smartphone updated with the latest patches protects you against known vulnerabilities in their operating systems. Hackers would have likely exploited those vulnerabilities to steal others’ data, which is why updating your devices with the latest patches keeps you safer.
We now look at payment methods that websites typically offer.
Credit cards are the safest way to make purchases online as banks have of late ramped up protection against fraud. One common safeguard is two-factor authentication via OTP (one-time password) sent to your phone. This means the purchaser must have the credit card information and the phone bearing the mobile number registered with the bank.
The Fair Credit Billing Act allows you to dispute unfair or fraudulent charges. If an unexpected transaction shows up in your card statement, you can raise the issue with the bank. The bank then is obliged to reach out to the retailer directly to resolve the dispute.
Payment via debit card is capped to the actual amount in your bank account. So you stay hemmed in by your financial reality instead of being let loose on a line of credit.
Debit cards offer the same level of fraud protection and ease of use as credit cards. Like credit cards, debit cards are accepted almost everywhere online.
Third-Party Payment Services
Of late, many retailers have started offering the option of payment via third-party instruments. Examples include Google Pay and PayPal. Third-party instruments can be convenient because the third party holds all necessary information in your account, saving you the trouble of typing in the details repeatedly.
However, these instruments often come loaded with one-click or two-click purchase options, and you might end up purchasing without realizing it went through.
Pay with Installments
Some websites allow you to pay for your purchase with installments over a period of time. Purchase with installments is helpful when shopping for a high-priced item that you need now but cannot pay for it immediately.
Often but not always, installment schemes come with interest fees. If you plan to purchase an item with installments, consider getting it from Zebit, a website that offers financing at 0% APR. Looking up this Zebit review gets you further insight into what this new platform has to offer.
A bank transfer works similarly to your debit card. You must have sufficient money in your account to cover the purchase. Note that a bank transfer will inevitably share some of your personal information with the recipient.
Transferring to an account at your bank is typically free, but another bank’s account may entail a small fee.
Electronic checks, or eChecks, are paper checks without paper. An eCheck is funded by your (i.e., the buyer’s) bank account. You will need your account number and bank routing number to place an electronic check.
eChecks require online authorization from the bank.
A Word of Caution
Some online retailers can have hidden fees that find their way into the final purchase price. One common add-on is delivery charges. Ensure you understand the total cost of a purchase to avoid being billed more than what you expected.