How to Make Secure Online Payments (2024)


PayPal Editorial Staff

PayPal Editorial Staff

September 13, 2023

September 13, 2023

From ordering groceries to booking travel, these days people can make quick and seamless purchases with just a few clicks. But as transactions move from physical card swipes to digital keystrokes, making secure payments is increasingly important.

In 2022, online shopping scams were the second-most reported type of scam, accounting for approximately $392 million in consumer losses.1 But with the right tools and knowledge, secure online payments can be possible.

In this article, learn about online payment security, including:

  • What a secure payment is
  • How to check if a website is safe
  • How secure payment processing works
  • Examples of secure online payment methods

What is a secure online payment?

Secure online payments typically contain safeguards to help you protect personal and financial information. When a shopper provides their payment information or other sensitive personal details to complete a purchase, a secure checkout and online payment method can help protect their data.

Wondering how to check if a website is safe? When shopping online, consider potential signs that may indicate online transaction security, such as:

  • The store’s official site.Make sure to navigate to the store’s official website. If unsure, try to search for it in a separate tab. Avoid clicking on links from advertisem*nts or spam emails.
  • Website URL.Ensure the website's URL begins with "https://" rather than just "http://". The "s" stands for secure and can signify that the website has an SSL certificate installed. SSL certificates verify a website’s authenticity.
  • Padlock icon.Check if there is a padlock symbol in the browser's address bar or the lower-right corner of the webpage, which can indicate the website has a secure connection.
  • Privacy policy.Many safe shopping websites have a privacy policy that explains how consumers’ personal information is handled and protected.
  • Security certifications.These symbols can indicate that the online store has undergone security assessments and meets industry standards for protecting customer information, such as the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance seal.

While the above qualities can help indicate proper security measures, scammers may be able to fake some of these aspects to lure shoppers into a false sense of security. Be sure to assess a website thoroughly and seek out official contact information for the company if a website seems suspicious.

How does secure online payment processing work?

To create a secure and encrypted connection between a website and someone’s web browser, Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) come into play.

These protocols are used to help create a safe environment for transmitting sensitive information. The two layers work via a process called the TLS/SSL handshake, which can establish a secure connection and allow for encrypted data transmission.

Websites using these protocols can usually be identified by the "https://" in the URL and often display a padlock symbol in the browser's address bar.

What are some secure online payment methods?

By prioritizing secure online payment methods, people may be able to shop with peace of mind. Examples of safe ways to pay online include:

Credit cards

From shopping in-person to making online purchases, credit cards are generally considered a secure payment method.

But how can credit be more secure than cash? Here are a few potential security benefits when shopping with a credit card:

  • Built-in security features:Credit cards can be equipped with various security features to protect transactions, including EMV chips, card verification value (CVV), and secure online authentication.
  • Fraud monitoring:Credit card companies may employ fraud monitoring systems to help detect and avoid fraudulent activities.
  • Recover lost funds.If cash is lost, there is likely no way to recover it. However, credit cards may offer a layer of security, enabling cardholders to dispute unauthorized charges and protect funds.

Virtual credit cards

A virtual credit card can be a temporary digital payment tool. Typically, they contain a unique card number, expiration date, and security code, separate from a cardholder’s physical credit card.

Designed for one-time or limited use, people can typically generate a new card for single payments or transactions, which can make this online payment option convenient for safe online shopping.

Since these card numbers are distinct from physical credit card details, they may help reduce the risk of exposing card information to potential hackers or fraudsters.

Digital wallets

A digital wallet can be a secure and convenient payment method that can store payment information, such as credit card details, bank account information, and digital currencies. Some people may use a digital wallet instead of a traditional physical wallet, allowing them to make online purchases, in-store payments, P2P payments, and bill payments on the go with an electronic device.

For example, the PayPal digital wallet enables consumers to spend, send, and manage transactions almost anywhere they are. Plus, they can sometimes gain Purchase Protection, depending on the transaction type.

So, what makes digital wallets safe? Digital wallets typically utilize advanced encryption and authentication techniques to enhance security. Instead of sharing the actual payment details, digital wallets may use a token or a unique identifier to complete the transaction.

ACH payments

Another potential way to make secure transactions is via Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments, which can allow people to transfer money from one bank account to another. They operate through a secure network and usually employ encryption protocols that help protect sensitive information. ACH payments typically require authorization from the account holder, adding an extra layer of security.

Prepaid cards

A prepaid card can allow individuals to load funds onto the card in advance. They’re not linked to a bank account or credit line, so the potential for financial loss may be limited to the available balance on the card.

By using a prepaid card for online transactions, individuals can keep their primary bank account information separate from digital purchases.

Learn about security and protection with PayPal.

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