The wonderful world of the Internet has now made it easier, faster and more fun than ever to browse shops, sift through deals and purchase whatever your little heart desires from the comfortable confines of your own home. Think of it as cyber window shopping – how could you possibly go wrong?
Well, in fact, it’s easy to go wrong. There are a lot of dangers associated with making purchases online, and using your debit card may pose one such threat. Here’s the reality behind the dangers of making online purchases with your debit card.
Debit Card Fraud
For starters, giving out your debit card information online essentially gives out your bank account information, as well. Your debit card is directly linked to your immediate cash funds, and giving away this information can allow potential “hackers” access directly to your bank account.
The problem with this is that there is no additional security linked with a debit card. If someone has the name and number on the debit card, it’s much easier to make a purchase with it online than it is to make a purchase with it in the store. At least in a store, you’re asked, in most cases, to enter the PIN number associated with the debit card. Not the case online – just enter the name and number on the card and you’re basically giving your consent to make the purchase.
When a purchase is made online, whether it’s your purchase or not, most online retailers will take some time to process the transaction. The charge will appear on your monthly bank statement as “Processing.”
The problem with this “Processing” status is that it means the money has already been taken out of your account, but your bank still has yet to confirm it. Even if you catch a purchase that you did not make (if your debit card number was stolen) while it is listed as “Processing,” there is no way to “un-do” that purchase. It has already happened.
Merchant Dispute Problems
What happens when you purchase an item online with your credit card, and when you receive the item, it is not up to the standards that you expected? Your credit card isn’t usually actually charged for weeks after you make the purchase, giving you time to receive the item, review it and dispute the charge with your credit card if you return the item to the sender.
With a debit card, since the funds are immediately withdrawn from your account, this process becomes much more difficult. You are literally paying up front for something you haven’t even had a chance to see, and when it arrives and isn’t what you expected it to be, your dispute will have to go directly to the merchant.
If you purchased from a reputable merchant, this shouldn’t be an issue and they should refund your money immediately upon receipt of the item in return – keyword: should. Oftentimes, burglars create online “shopping” sites looking for people just like you who are willing to use their debit cards to make online purchases. They take your money, send you a complete piece of junk for an item, if they send anything at all, and you aren’t able to fight your purchase.
For safety’s sake, use your credit card when shopping online. It’s generally a much safer option, but even credit cards have their downfalls. The best thing you can do for yourself is have one credit card that is strictly designated to your online purchases, and use it for those and only those. That way, you can closely monitor the action on that card, and since it’s a credit and not a debit card, you’ll have the time you need to dispute any fraudulent charges.
Ashleigh Murray is a freelance writer who has dealt with unfortunate financial situations before as a result of shopping online. Hers were so bad that she needed some major credit repair – so she hopes that people take her advice and shop online in a more secure way than using a debit card.