What Are the Safest Online Payment Methods? (2024)

Whether you need to buy something or pay for a service online, keeping your hard-earned money safe should be your top priority.

There are plenty of payment methods to choose between nowadays, but only a select few can really be considered secure. So which payment options are the most secure?

1. Virtual Credit Cards

What Are the Safest Online Payment Methods? (1)

Your credit card is protected by a security protocol called 3D Secure (3DS), which is quite good, but does not offer full protection against fraud and identity theft. Virtual credit cards do, in many ways, because they actually obscure your real information.

Virtual credit cards are essentially digital-only cards that are intended to be used once, or just a few times (typically, you generate a new card for each payment or transaction). This card is linked to a funding source, such as a bank account. And when you want to pay for something online, you don't put in your real credit card number, but rather the number provided by your virtual credit card service. This way, you minimize the chances of your information being stolen.

But even if a website that has your information is hacked or breached, you are safe because your virtual credit card is of no use to the threat actor responsible for the attack—it has most likely expired, and they cannot do anything with it.

In short, virtual credit cards offer tremendous protection from various types of cybercrime. The only major downside is that you can't receive a refund to an expired card in the event of needing one, but that's not exactly a big price to pay considering how infrequently most people find themselves in such a situation.

2. Digital Wallets

What Are the Safest Online Payment Methods? (2)

Digital wallets are apps that store your card or bank information. You've most likely used one in the past—PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay are some of the best digital wallets available today. These apps are simple, convenient, very easy to use, and act as a sort of barrier between third parties and sensitive information that belongs to you.

When you pay for something using your digital wallet, online or in person, your payment information is not visible to the merchant. It is encrypted and obscured, which greatly reduces the chances of it falling into the wrong hands. Plus, there are things you can do to boost the security of your digital wallet.

You should never use your digital wallet or any payment app on public Wi-Fi, because these access points are sometimes spoofed, and often not properly secured. You should also consider installing security apps on your smartphone, including antivirus suites, network scanners, and authenticators.

There's always the danger of losing your phone or having it stolen, so make sure you lock both the phone and the wallet with a complicated password. Better yet, use multi-factor authentication or biometric authentication to secure your device and payment apps.

3. Prepaid Cards

What Are the Safest Online Payment Methods? (3)

Prepaid cards are cards that are not linked with bank accounts, but instead need to be topped up with money in order to function. In other words, if you have a prepaid card, you can't spend more money than you have already loaded onto it. This is what separates prepaid cards from credit and debit cards, and makes them much safer.

Using a prepaid card to pay for goods and services online is a great way to protect your money because even if a threat actor manages to steal your card information somehow, they will not be able to gain access to your bank account, but only the money that is already on the prepaid card. If your credit or debit card information was compromised in some way, that would be an entirely different story with potentially thousands being taken from your account.

One of the best things you can do to increase your cybersecurity is to have a dedicated prepaid card for online shopping and other digital transactions. You can just load your prepaid card with money periodically, whenever you need to pay for something over the internet, as opposed to using your primary credit card and exposing yourself to danger.

So, are there any drawbacks to using prepaid cards? Unfortunately, yes. The fees tend to be quite steep. You often have to pay fees for card purchase and activation, as well as reloads, balance inquiries, and even card cancelation.

4. Cryptocurrency

What Are the Safest Online Payment Methods? (4)

As a decentralized form of currency that relies on blockchain technology, crypto is inherently safer and more private than fiat money. It exists only in the digital space, which makes it ideal for transferring money between accounts over the internet.

You don't need to have a credit card, a bank account, or have access to the financial system in any way to use crypto. And if you know what you are doing, the chances of being tracked by a third party are minimal, especially if you use privacy-focused currencies like Monero.

It should also be noted that it is fairly easy to secure your crypto assets. If you don't want to invest in a cold wallet (a physical device that keeps your crypto offline), there are plenty of secure digital crypto wallets—Exodus, Wasabi, Guarda, and the Coinbase Wallet, to name a few.

On the other hand, crypto markets are very volatile and the value of a currency can change on a daily basis. This is off-putting to many people, just like the fact that crypto is not accepted everywhere as a form of payment; granted, more e-commerce platforms have embraced it in recent years, but it's not like Amazon accepts cryptocurrency payments. So, in sum, crypto can definitely be used for secure online payments, but it's not for everyone.

Keep Your Money Safe Online

Digital payment systems have come a long way over the years. There are now more options than ever, and some of them are actually safe.

We can only guess what the future has in store for us, but as online payment methods develop and evolve, so will cyber threats. And no matter how many precautions you take, you are one wrong move away from having your bank account compromised, so make sure you keep an eye out for signs of a breach.

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What Are the Safest Online Payment Methods? (2024)


What is the safest online payment method? ›

Although there is no single safest way to pay online, credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, and traditional bank transfers are the best 4 safest ways to pay when shopping online.

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.

Which is safer, debit card or ACH? ›

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.

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.

Is PayPal the safest way to pay? ›

Is paying through PayPal safer than paying using a credit card? 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.

What is the safest way to send money and not get scammed? ›

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.

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.

Can ACH payments be hacked? ›

ACH fraud typically occurs when bad actors gain access to a company or person's bank account information and initiate a fraudulent transfer. Another common ACH fraud occurs when customers make a legitimate purchase, then claim the ACH payment was fraudulent, and request a return.

Is it safe to pay bills online with a checking account? ›

Is online bill pay safe. Online bill pay is included with an online bank account, and online bank accounts are generally very safe. Banking sites protect your accounts in a number of ways, including multifactor authentication, alerts for suspicious activity and website encryption.

What is the safest way to pay bills? ›

Electronic checks are inherently safer than physical checks as they cannot be lost or stolen, and any eCheck also gains the encryption provided by the ACH as well as the ability to reverse your payments under certain circ*mstances.

What is the most secure form of payment? ›

Debit and credit cards

Not only are they quick and easy to use, but they offer a relatively high level of security and protection of your private data. If you're using a credit card, you don't actually pay for the goods or services until your credit card bill is due.

Which is safer, a debit card or a checking account? ›

Payments with a debit card are taken instantly from your checking account and shopping online comes with the added risk that your information may be stolen. Using a debit card opens up the possibility that the thief will gain access to the funds in your checking account.

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.

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.

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.

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