How to protect your credit card online

Keep your credit card details away from prying eyes and avoid fraudulent transactions with these tips for shopping online.

Sarah Tew / CBS Interactive

There's nothing like the feeling of snapping up a hard-earned bargain when shopping online.

There's also nothing like the feeling of falling victim to credit card fraud.

With a number of high-profile breaches this year alone, it's always a good time to be alert -- not alarmed -- about using your credit card online.

On top of these general tips for safe shopping, here are some card-specific tips to keep in mind when virtually swiping your plastic.

Only enter your credit card details on secure sites

By now, you hopefully know the drill. Look for an https connection in the URL, as well as a padlock or another digital security certificate to ensure that you are only entering your details on a site that encrypts the transaction end-to-end. Don't send your credit card information over email.

Buy a prepaid card for online transactions


For those who want to keep online purchases completely separate from everyday credit card transactions, prepaid cards are an option to consider. These can either be bought online or from a traditional bricks and mortar retailer for a small fee.

Prepaid credit cards allow you to load a set amount of money at the time of purchase. The advantages are plentiful when it comes to using a prepaid card for online shopping, but the big one is that even if the card's details are compromised somewhere along the chain, there is a limit to the amount of money that can be taken.

Some banks and financial institutions will let you generate a virtual credit card number to complete purchases. This is generally a single-use number that you can enter in place of your regular number.

Watch statements for any unusual transactions

While many banks have sophisticated 24/7 monitoring systems designed to detect fraud and unauthorised credit card use, it's important to also keep an eye out on financial statements both online and on paper. If you spot anything suspicious, call your bank immediately.

Turn on your credit card's added layer of security

Many credit cards will have an additional layer of security that might not be enabled by default. MasterCard has a product called SecureCode, which is a private code that you enter every time you make a transaction on a supported site, and is never disclosed to the retailer.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Verified by Visa, on the other hand, offers a personal message that greets you when you are making a transaction, as well as a password to authorize a purchase. Check with your bank or financial institution to see if one of these options is available. The check for SecureCode is here, while Verified by Visa can be found on your region's Visa page.

On top of these safeguards, some banks also have their own verification system in place that works in place of SecureCode and Verified by Visa. This may include the bank sending a one-time PIN or security code to your phone as a second layer of authorization.

Check with your bank or credit institution to work out what other protections you have if your details are compromised. Both MasterCard and Visa offer Zero Liability protection against fraudulent transactions for both online and offline use.

Check your browser settings

Turn off your browser's autocomplete settings to avoid it inadvertently storing your credit card or personally identifiable information.

In Chrome, go to Settings and select Show Advanced Settings. Under the Passwords and Forms section, click Manage Auto-fill Settings. Delete any credit card information that is automatically stored there, then uncheck Enable Auto-fill to fill in web forms in a single click.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

In Firefox, click the Menu button and choose Options. Find the Privacy panel and look for the History drop-down box. Here, choose Use custom settings for history. Then, uncheck Remember search and form history.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

In Safari, find Preferences. Click on the AutoFill tab and then uncheck the options to remember form data, including the credit card option.

In Internet Explorer, click the settings cog and choose Internet Options. From the Content tab, click Settings next to the AutoComplete section and uncheck Forms.

Be sensible about where and how you use your card

Reduce the chance of falling victim to a large-scale breach by not allowing the retailer to store your credit card details on file (if applicable). Enter your credit card details each and every time you make a purchase.


Also, make sure to use a separate password for every account you make with an online retailer. It should be different to passwords used for email accounts and other online services.

Something that you might not think about is the physical location where you enter credit card details.

It sounds obvious, but don't type your details out in public view where people can see your screen. For example, on public transport it might be super convenient to whip out a tablet and make a quick impulse purchase, but think about who might be watching over your shoulder.

Use another service to make it easy

Blur (formerly known as DoNotTrackMe) offers a service that helps to add another layer of security between you and the online retailer. For premium subscribers, it offers a masked credit card feature that generates a new number for every purchase you make. You can also assign a set value for that transaction, so there's no chance of taking more money than you designate. It's $39/year but only available for users in the United States, although the service will roll out to a select number of other countries soon.

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