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 many payment methods to choose from these days, but only a select few can truly be considered secure. So which payment methods are the most secure?
1. Virtual credit cards
Your credit card is protected by a security protocol called 3D Secure (3DS), which is pretty good, but doesn’t offer full protection against fraud and identity theft. Virtual credit cards do that in many ways because they actually hide your real information.
Virtual credit cards are essentially digital-only cards that are meant to be used once, or only a few times (usually 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 enter your real credit card number, but rather the number provided by your virtual credit card service. In 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’re safe because your virtual credit card is of no use to the threat actor responsible for the attack – it’s most likely expired and there’s nothing they can do about it.
In short, virtual credit cards provide tremendous protection against various types of cybercrime. The only major drawback is that you can’t get a refund for an expired card if you need it, but that’s not exactly a big price to pay considering how rarely most people find themselves in such a situation.
2. Digital wallets
Digital wallets are apps that store your card or banking information. You’ve most likely used one before—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 belonging to you.
When you pay for something with 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. In addition, there are things you can do to increase 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 anti-virus packages, network scanners, and authenticators.
There’s always the risk of losing your phone or having it stolen, so make sure you lock both your phone and your wallet with a complex password. Better yet, use multi-factor authentication or biometric authentication to secure your device and payment apps.
3. Prepaid cards
Prepaid cards are cards that are not linked to bank accounts, but instead need to be topped up with money to work. In other words, if you have a prepaid card, you can’t spend more money than you’ve 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 somehow manages to steal your card information, they won’t be able to access your bank account, but only the money that is already on the prepaid card. If your credit or debit card information was somehow compromised, it would be a completely different story with potentially thousands taken from your account.
One of the best things you can do to increase your cyber security is to have a dedicated prepaid card for online shopping and other digital transactions. You can only load the prepaid card with money on a regular basis, when you need to pay for something over the internet, as opposed to using your primary credit card and putting yourself at risk.
So, are there any downsides to using prepaid cards? Unfortunately yes. The fees tend to be quite high. You often have to pay fees for card purchase and activation, as well as top-ups, balance inquiries and even card cancellations.
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, making 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’re doing, the chance of being tracked by a third party is minimal, especially if you use privacy-focused currencies like Monero.
It should also be noted that securing crypto assets is quite easy. 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 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 offensive to many people, just like the fact that crypto is not accepted everywhere as a form of payment; granted, several 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 holds for us, but as online payment methods evolve and evolve, so will cyber threats. And no matter how many precautions you take, you’re one misstep away from having your bank account compromised, so make sure you keep an eye out for signs of a breach.