Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Squeamish about Using Credit Cards Online?

Gift cards.

Yup, that's the answer.

If you're nervous about the thought of putting your credit-card number out there in cyberspace, Visa gift cards can solve the problem. Our bank sells the cards for a $3 fee, and you can buy a card with any value up to $1000. Many banks sell these cards, and you can even buy them at grocery stores and department stores too. Some people use the gift cards as [gasp] gifts. Some use them as pre-paid "credit" if regular credit is unattainable. And some use them specifically for online purchases. If you want to shop at Amazon, say, you can buy a $200 card (for $203) and use the gift-card only for online shopping. Or maybe you know you want to buy a book that will cost $13 with its shipping, so you spend $16 for the $13 card. One way requires more money upfront that may sit around unused for a while; the other way eats up more in fees. But either way eliminates risk to your credit and identity.


  1. But if you bought a larger denomination like the $200 card you mentioned, you would only pay that $3 fee once. Seems reasonable to buy a larger quantity if you are planning to use it and protect your identity.

  2. Kristi, I agree with you. But I've seen two opinions. Some people don't want to risk any money, so they prefer to pay the $3 fee (and have to bother to make a trip out to purchase the gift card) whenever they wish to buy something. They don't want an unused balance sitting around.

    Others figure they'd prefer to pay the money upfront (as some of us do with Scrip funds to benefit a school), risking however much balance you put on the card, but paying fewer fees. If it were me, I'd prefer fewer fees and purchasing a bigger balance. But hey, I use paypal, so I'm not one to understand as fully as I might how people feel about the risk of paying with cards online.

  3. Yeah, but we found it's too bad for you if you want to use up the exact amounts of the Visa cards.

    We used to get Visa gift cards sometimes. A $50 card that has $2.40 left on it has to be used for $2.40 only. You cannot spend $3.00, pay $2.40 with the Visa gift card, and then pay the remaining $.60 without a clerk (ie Real Person) running two separate transactions. With a gift card for that particular merchant, that's not a problem; they can run it as one transaction and you can pay the difference.

    So, anyway, when you're using a Visa pre-paid card online, keep in mind that you'll have to always either come out exactly right on the card's balance or always have more on the card than you plan to spend and you'll likely never be able to work it out to come out to exactly zero balance. Or you'll have to call, like I had to do with Land's End, and have them run the card multiple times in tiny few-cents transactions to get as close as possible to the remaining balance on the card.

  4. YES. Jenny makes an important point. That's one of the reasons it would make more sense [ha ha!] to have a bigger balance so there isn't leftover. On that same note, there are times I've looked at something online, knowing that it was going to cost, oh, say, $14.75, and then go back to order it a day or so later, and find that it's $14.95 or $13.65. So I think you'd always have to overestimate a bit when buying an "exact-price" visa card to use online.

  5. Susan, our Discover card will generate a random number just for online purchases. It is only good for that purchase and is tied back to our account. If that particular credit card number is stolen, it can't be used for anything else. Because of this, we only use Discover when making online purchases.