Safest ways to pay online (2024)


  • Online payment methods: Pros and cons
    • PayPal: Very safe
    • Credit card: Well protected against fraud
    • Debit card: Great for controlling spending
    • Prepaid card: Provides a certain level of privacy
    • Digital wallets: Very convenient
    • Mobile payment apps: Best for paying friends and family
    • Cryptocurrencies: Most private and fully digital

Online payment methods: Pros and cons

Multiple online payment methods are available, from PayPal to credit cards and digital wallets. But what are the safest ones?

Generally, these are the best methods for secure online payments:

  • PayPal. Safe and secure.
  • Credit card. Well protected against fraudulent transactions.
  • Debit card. Great for controlling your spending.
  • Prepaid card. Provides a certain level of privacy.
  • Digital wallets. Convenient and straightforward.
  • Mobile payment apps. Great for paying friends and family.
  • Cryptocurrencies. Offer a degree of privacy.

So let’s look at their pros and cons to see which payment methods suit your needs the best.

PayPal: Very safe

PayPal is considered one of the most secure services for sending and receiving money online and online shopping.


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    Safety. PayPal ensures safe data transmission by using the secure socket layer (SSL) technology with 128-bit encryption.

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    Security. It does not share your financial information with merchants, reducing the risk of data breaches.

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    Buyer and seller protection. PayPal offers buyer and seller protection and helps resolve online purchase issues. It provides protection against unauthorized transactions and offers chargebacks.

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    User authentication. It adds a layer of security by using two-factor authentication (2FA) on its platform on a web browser (not the app), which means it will send you a one-time code on an authenticator app that you have to enter to complete the login process.

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    Convenience. It is widely accepted across various online platforms.

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    Multiple payment options. You can link credit cards, bank accounts, and debit cards to it.


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    Fees. PayPal charges fees for commercial transactions.

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    Data breaches. The company’s data has been breached in the past, and PayPal scams are not unheard of. You can delete your PayPal account anytime if you no longer wish to use this payment method.

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    Account restrictions. PayPal may freeze or limit your account for an extended period of time if it detects suspicious activity.

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    Hold periods. In some cases, PayPal may hold the funds you received, making them unavailable to you for a certain period of time.

Credit card: Well protected against fraud

A credit card is another popular and secure online payment method that is well protected against fraud. Especially if your card provider implements 3D Secure protocol.


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    Fraud detection systems. Most credit card companies and banks monitor transactions for unusual patterns and might block your card to stop a transaction if they notice something suspicious. You can also inform them if you notice fraudulent charges on your card so they can investigate and reimburse you.

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    Chargeback options. Credit card issuers typically offer a chargeback option in the case you did not receive the goods you paid for, if they are different from what you were led to believe they will be, or if billing errors occurred.

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    Limited to zero liability for fraudulent transactions. If your card is stolen and used without your permission, most credit card issuers either cap your liability at a relatively low amount or don’t hold you responsible. For more information, check out our analysis of a stolen credit card database.


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    Not anonymous. Banks issue credit cards, so it’s impossible to make anonymous transactions.

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    Debt accumulation. Overspending and resulting debt accumulation is a risk when using credit cards.

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    Security issues. You should be cautious about providing your credit card details on websites and make sure the websites are secure.

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    Interest charges. If you carry a balance on your credit card, it will incur interest charges.

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    Fees. Some credit cards may charge fees, especially for foreign transactions.

Debit card: Great for controlling spending

Debit cards are great for controlling how much you spend.


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    Controlled spending. A limited amount in your account prevents overspending.

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    No debt. You’ll be less tempted to indulge in impulse purchases when you have a limited amount of money, as opposed to shopping with a credit card. By paying this way, you will not accumulate any debt.

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    No interest charges. When you use a debit card, you are spending your own money, so you will not be charged interest. And if you lose your card or it gets stolen, the thief will not be able to spend more than is in the account.


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    Limited dispute resolution. Less robust dispute resolution and buyer protection.

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    Fewer options for recourse. When you pay for something with a debit card, the money is immediately taken from your account, so you have fewer options if you have purchased from a dishonest seller. Refunds may also be delayed.

Prepaid card: Provides a certain level of privacy

A prepaid card is similar to a debit card, but it offers more privacy than other ways to pay online.


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    Privacy. When purchasing a prepaid card over the counter, you don’t need to provide any personal information, so your purchase information will not be linked to you.

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    Don’t need a bank account. You can buy a prepaid card in a store with cash. You don’t need a bank account to purchase it.


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    Not completely private. Some cards designed for international transactions may need registration and activation, which involves providing some personal information like your name, address, and/or contact details. Some online merchants might store your shipping address and online purchase history. Also, when you are shopping online, the website and payment processor may log your IP address and location and link purchase history to you.

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    Fraud. Make sure you are buying it from a reliable seller so you don’t get scammed.

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    Limited dispute resolution. Prepaid cards offer limited buyer protection or none at all.

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    Limited use. Some online retailers and service providers, such as hotels or car rentals, do not accept prepaid cards.

Digital wallets: Very convenient

Digital wallets are characterized by their convenience because they allow for online, in-app, and in-person contactless transactions. Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay are the most popular and reliable digital wallets.

In fact, Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, has stated that digital wallets are a safe way to pay online because your payment information is protected with encryption technology that cannot be intercepted by hackers or compromised during transactions.


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    Fast and easy. Once you set up your digital wallet with your information, you can shop online with just a few clicks without repeatedly entering your payment details. Your credit card information is stored on your device, allowing you to pay with it simply by authenticating your identity (with a fingerprint or face scan).

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    Secure. The seller does not see your credit card number, only the transaction ID.

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    Multiple payment options. You can link multiple payment methods to your digital wallet, like credit cards, debit cards, and bank accounts.

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    P2P and in-store payments. Many digital wallets support P2P payments, so you can send money to friends and family with just a couple of clicks. They also facilitate international payments and currency conversions, so you can shop globally. You can also use a digital wallet on your smartphone for in-store purchases.

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    Encryption. According to NordVPN’s cybersecurity expert Adrianus Warmenhoven, digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay can help combat financial fraud. When you use a digital wallet, your payment information is protected with encryption technology and tokenization so that it can not be intercepted by hackers or compromised during transactions.


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    Limited acceptance. The main downside to digital wallets is that few online shops accept payments from them

Mobile payment apps: Best for paying friends and family

Mobile payment apps are very similar to digital wallets, but they are even more convenient for sending money to friends and family. In the US, the most popular mobile payment apps are Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle, and they are known for being quick and straightforward.


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    Easy to use. Mobile payment apps are straightforward and user-friendly.

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    Convenient. You don’t need to have cash. It is incredibly convenient for splitting bills and distributing the payments accordingly.

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    Instant payments. Mobile payment apps let you send and receive payments quickly from your social contacts with just a few taps on your smartphone.

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    Versatile. Some mobile payment apps allow you to maintain a balance in the app, while others need to be linked to your bank account.

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    Optional physical cards. Some mobile payment apps offer physical debit cards to use in stores and ATMs. However, with cybercrime on the rise, you should be careful when using mobile payment apps to avoid scams such as Venmo scams or Zelle scams.


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    Limited acceptance. Not all merchants and service providers accept mobile payments.

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    Fees. Some apps have fees for instant withdrawals.

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    Public feed. Some mobile payment apps allow users to see their friend’s payment history, which might discourage some users from using these apps.

Cryptocurrencies: Most private and fully digital

Cryptocurrency, or digital currency, is fully digital and considered among the most private ways to pay online.


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    Private. Cryptocurrency transactions are linked to digital addresses instead of real-world identities.

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    Decentralized. A single entity or government does not control cryptocurrencies, so there is no central point of failure or attack.

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    Secure. Cryptocurrencies use advanced cryptography to secure financial transactions.


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    Technical knowledge. A certain level of expertise is needed to understand how crypto works and navigate cryptocurrency exchanges.

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    No central authority. It is very difficult to reclaim your coins because there is no central authority or clear regulation, so it is up to the users to protect their passwords and make sure they deal with reliable merchants. It may also be impossible to reverse a crypto transaction.

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    Limited acceptance. Relatively few merchants and online platforms accept payments in cryptocurrencies.

Safest ways to pay online (2024)


Safest ways to pay online? ›

The safest method of payment for paying bills is to use a credit card. That's because a credit card number does not give anyone a way to get access to your cash. With a credit card number, they can make a charge on your account. But credit cards offer strong protections from fraud and unauthorized charges.

Which is the safest online payment method? ›

Credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, and bank transfers are the safest ways to pay online.

Is Zelle a safe payment method? ›

Zelle® does not offer purchase protection, so pay it safe. Only send money to people you personally know and trust. 4. Confirm your recipient's contact information: Make sure you have the correct U.S. mobile phone number or email address for the person you want to send money to.

What is the best payment method to not get scammed? ›

By and large, credit cards are easily the most secure and safe payment method to use when you shop online. Credit cards use online security features like encryption and fraud monitoring to keep your accounts and personal information safe.

How to safely take payments online? ›

You just need to create an account with PayPal or Stripe, then enter that information in your website builder to enable payments on your website. Online payment service providers let you accept credit card payments or payments directly from your customer's account with the provider, such as PayPal, to yours.

What is the safest way to accept payment from strangers? ›

Secure Online Payment Platforms

Platforms like PayPal and Stripe provide safeguards against fraud and unauthorized transactions. These platforms often have dispute resolution processes in place to protect both the buyer and the seller.

Is PayPal the safest way to pay? ›

Paying through PayPal is about as safe as paying using a credit card, but there are indirect advantages to using PayPal. Merchants won't see your credit card information if you use PayPal, for example, thus reducing the risk of data exposure.

Is PayPal safer than a debit card? ›

Key takeaways

PayPal and credit cards both offer protection when shopping online. PayPal protects shoppers if items go missing or arrive damaged. Using PayPal or a credit card is safer than using your debit card. It's still important to keep your PayPal account secure.

Which payment app is safest? ›

The security of Apple Pay is one of the safest to date. It works through a separate chip in the device called the “Secure Element”, and for each transaction, this chip sends a one-time code that encrypts your data. In layman's terms, the chip acts as a middleman to make sure that the transaction is performed securely.

Is it safer to pay online with debit or credit card? ›

Although both debit and credit cards provide easy methods of payment, credit cards have better fraud protection which makes them more secure to use online. Credit card fraud can easily happen through security breaches or cyber attacks that steal your payment card information.

Which is safer, an ACH or a debit card? ›

A: Both credit cards and ACH transactions face security risks, ACH payments are generally considered safer. ACH transactions have a lengthy authorization process and banks have fraud detection measures in place, so these payments are less likely to go through unauthorized.

Which is safer, Venmo or Zelle? ›

Both of the payment services are decently safe, have user-friendly interfaces, and allow you to conveniently send money when you need it. Zelle stands out from Venmo with its absence of instant transfer fees, but it also cannot be used as a wallet. So, if you need a wallet function, you should go for Venmo .

What is the downside of using Zelle? ›

Unlike many money transfer apps, Zelle does not charge a fee for instant transfers. Zelle transfers are generally secure, but the app does carry risks, including the risk of glitches at banks that can affect money transfers.

Which is safer to use Zelle or PayPal? ›

Zelle and PayPal security and privacy standards are fairly similar in that both platforms make use of encryption, strict access controls, and two-factor authentication. In addition, both platforms allow customers to make payments using their email address, which protects their account and personal information.

How to pay online without being scammed? ›

Contactless payment options

This method utilizes tokenization to ensure that each transaction has a unique one-time use code to prevent counterfeit fraud and ensures that no customer data is part of the transaction. Most newly issued and renewed credit and debit cards now include contactless technology.

Which payment method is more secure? ›

What is a secure payment method? Debit or credit cards are generally regarded as the safest. If you are paying by card, it is important to verify that the provider of the payment gateway is a company who is regulated, and has the right accreditation such as PCI Level 1.

Is there a safe way to pay online? ›

You should also consider using an online payment platform, such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Pay. Using these platforms to authorise your payments means the retailer doesn't even see your payment details. They also provide their own dispute resolution should anything go wrong.

What is the safest form of payment to accept? ›

But a cashier's check is generally regarded as the safer payment method because the funds are drawn against the bank's account, not an individual or business account. You should be familiar with the signs of a check fraud scam any time you're accepting one of these checks from someone you don't know.

Is PayPal safer than Venmo? ›

In general, Venmo is best suited for personal use, such as sending and receiving money from friends and family. You can do the same via PayPal, but it is a better choice if you shop online or are a merchant accepting business payments.

What is the safest way for someone to transfer you money? ›

The safest way to transfer money to someone is to use a direct wire transfer between banks or a payment app with security features. Beware of scams with either method since getting your money back is hard or may be impossible.

Is it safe to accept Zelle payment from Stranger? ›

Zelle strongly recommends that users only use the app to send payments to and receive payments from people they know and trust. Because Zelle scams are common, it's best to avoid accepting Zelle payments from strangers when selling items online. Here's why.

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