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What are the most secure online payment methods?

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular payment methods from a security perspective.

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Image: Unsplash

As we progress through the second half of 2020, ecommerce continues its meteoric rise and significance in our lives. Given global events over recent weeks, we have learned that being able to buy online is not just a convenience – it can become a necessity. 

It is just as important to consider it from the other side of the coin. While some retailers have seen their businesses almost destroyed by the lockdown, others who have embraced ecommerce have actually seen an increase in sales. For example, although Waterstones was compelled to close all its stores, it reported a 400 percent increase in online sales over recent weeks. 

However, there is a potential dark side to ecommerce. With legitimate businesses moving their emphasis online, criminal elements are inevitably doing likewise. Online hackers are today’s equivalent of the opportunists in the shopping mall who are poised to steal your cash or cards if your wallet is left unguarded. The good news is that you have far more options open to you when you shop online. So let’s take a look at some of the most popular payment methods from a security perspective.

Debit card

Probably the most common way to pay both online and in a physical store, your debit card is a convenient way to transfer money directly from your bank. This direct link is a potential downside as if security is breached, there is no buffer between the fraudster and the bank. However, assuming you are using a reputable bank, security is likely to be second to none. 

Banks have very tight anti-fraud monitoring and are quick to flag up and block any suspicious-looking transactions. That can sometimes be embarrassing and frustrating when a genuine purchase is flagged and you have to convince the anti-fraud team to let it through, but it does provide comfort that you are protected.

Credit card

Using a credit card is an even safer way to pay, as you are not giving direct access to your actual bank account, and no money is taken until you review and settle the credit card bill. Given that credit card companies generally have identical anti-fraud measures to banks, this might look like the ideal way to pay. 

The only downside is that it is easy to rack up debts, and depending on the interest rate, these can grow and grow if you don’t pay the card off in full each month.

PayPal

Probably the best-known online payment platform, PayPal is accepted by most major ecommerce stores. The platform has an excellent record when it comes to anti-fraud, but if you are using it heavily, you will need to go through a verification process that is laborious and time-consuming. 

Nevertheless, it’s something you only have to do once, and the fact that there are 325 million active users speaks for itself. PayPal also offers physical cards so you can use it for offline as well as online payments.

Trustly

Numerous other platforms have sought to copy the PayPal model, but Trustly is one that does things a little differently. It acts as a conduit between your bank and the payee, essentially providing an additional layer of protection. The app uses the same level of encryption as banks, so security is high, but you do not have to go through the convoluted registration process of PayPal. 

Trustly has become one of the go-to tools within the iGaming sector. It offers a solution called Pay n Play, which is a feature of the no registration casinos that are becoming so popular. In essence it means players can remain largely anonymous, make instant payments, and place wagers without an account. Finally, they can do this knowing their transaction is completely secure. 

Google Wallet / Apple Pay

Around 85 percent of us have a smartphone, and all but a handful operate using iOS or Android. This means the vast majority of us have at least one of these two practically identical digital wallets at our disposal.

Independent reviewers generally agree that both systems are equally secure, and while the user interface might look very different for each, the important details behind the scenes are very similar. Most importantly from a security perspective, neither system gives the vendor direct access to the user’s bank details. 

Wire transfer

The name sounds old-fashioned, but the fact that people have been making payments by wire transfer for years should not be considered a bad thing. In essence, this is a direct communication from one bank to another, so it has security and transparency on its side. It’s very hard for anything to go wrong, and if it does, you can be confident the bank will rectify it at once.

The downside is that wire transfers can take time. Also, if you are working with different banks, and especially across international borders, expect to be charged some sort of fee. You wouldn’t use this method to buy a novel or play a game of online blackjack. But for infrequent, high-value transactions, such as buying a car or putting a deposit on a house, you should definitely keep it in mind. 

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