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Online Shopping Security Tips

Why Credit Is Safer Than Debit

No matter where you bank or what you buy, under consumer protection laws, credit cards are a safer bet than debit for purchases – online or otherwise. The key difference? When a credit card transaction is in question, the card issuer is responsible for resolving the situation. With a debit card, it is you, the cardholder, who is responsible.

Your Credit Card Rights1

  • If your credit card is lost or stolen and charges are made, you are not responsible for more than $50. Most issuers provide $0 liability coverage if you notify them very quickly.
  • You may be able to challenge charges from a merchant if you are unhappy with your purchase, as long as you do not pay the item off.
  • You can dispute a credit card charge in certain cases and temporarily withhold your payment as it is investigated on the condition that you write to the credit card issuer at the proper billing inquiries address. The letter must reach the issuer within 60 days from when the statement listing the charge was mailed to you.
  • Should the seller go out of business, the card issuer can reimburse you for the cost of the purchase you never received.

Take Advantage of Added Protection

If your purchase is delayed, doesn’t arrive at all, or you’re dissatisfied, it’s much easier to dispute the charge when you’ve paid by credit card. Many credit card issuers offer zero liability on credit card purchases. Typically, if you notify the card issuer of a problem within 60 days, you may not be liable to repay the amount.

Conversely, if a debit card transaction is in question, the allotted time for problem resolution is much shorter. A dispute must start within ten days of notification. If you miss the 10-day window, you might be stuck. And if you can’t resolve the problem, even with an additional 45 days sometimes granted for investigation, the cardholder could still be responsible for the charges. You also have no recourse for damaged items when the purchase is made by debit card.

Consider Your Cash Flow

Since a debit card often links to your checking account, funds are deducted immediately to pay for the purchase. Liquid funds become less accessible and can place a strain on your cash flow. In some cases, a hold (or “preauthorization”) may be placed on your funds for more than you actually spend. Retailers can place a hold on funds to approve certain purchases even if the exact amount is unknown at the time of authorization. Making hotel reservations, paying at the gas pump, and buying dinner at a restaurant are good examples.

Using a credit card to purchase big-ticket items can also give you more flexibility and help mitigate risk; not only with product satisfaction but with the potential disruption of your funds should a dispute arise. For peace of mind, you may be able to take advantage of extended warranties as well or other insurances with certain credit cards.

Be Sensible

Keep track of your online purchases and save all electronic receipts – especially if you’re a new customer to a particular site. And remember: it’s always better to shop at trusted, well-known sites like Amazon. Be wary of over-the-top offers, particularly from less familiar sites or those that try to pressure you with a sense of urgency (like must-have, limited-time offers).

Don’t forget the phrase “buyer beware”. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Play it safe; avoid temptation and look for another gift or website instead.

Look for “https://.”

Perhaps the number one online shopping tip is to verify that https:// precedes the URL address. The “s” at the end means secure and offers added encryption levels for safer online shopping. Even the most seasoned online shoppers cannot readily tell from the look of a site if it’s valid. Verifying that https:// is in the address can help assure the site’s validity. You can also look for seals of authenticity on the site itself, sometimes from trusted sources like McAfee ( or the Better Business Bureau.

Other Online Safety Tips

Whether debit or credit, remember that the cards and transactions are only as safe as you allow. For example, despite the convenience, avoid shopping online in public places or while using free hotspots. If you absolutely must, check the site’s security first. Don’t save your account or card information on any site, and completely log out when you’ve finished the transaction. Don’t click links or offers in emails.

Also, keep all of your devices up-to-date with their most current operating systems, keep passwords fresh, and anti-virus software up-to-date. Finally, if you see a questionable charge or suspect fraud, contact your financial institution right away.

Bottom Line

No matter the season, at United Federal Credit Union, WE WILL NEVER ASK for your confidential information by phone, text, email or mail. Because you’re our Member, we already have access to this information and would never need to ask for it. The best defense is to be watchful, choose credit over debit, and take extra care online.

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