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Can I use my ATM card for shopping online?

| MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA
min read

Q: Can I use my ATM card when shopping online? If so, how?

A: The short answer is yes, so long as your ATM card is linked with a major card-processing network such as Visa or MasterCard. Doing so should be relatively easy, but your question raises some points about online shopping payments that are worth review.

Look at ATM card issuer and retailer policies

Different online retailers have different policies; but whether your ATM card is a credit card or a debit card (or, as is the case sometimes, both), you should be able to use it for online purchases at most major websites. Prepaid cards are more of a grey area -- your chances of them working depend on the exact type of card you're using and if the card is registered to your name and address.

Just follow the instructions on the retailer's website step by step, and try to make purchases when you are not in a hurry so you can minimize mistakes. Here are other points to remember:

Protect your ATM card or debit card while shopping online

Any time you enter a credit or debit card number online, you run the risk that hackers might steal that information and use it to make unauthorized purchases. When that happens, you have more protection using a credit card rather than an ATM card. Purchasing with a credit card amounts to a loan from your bank, while purchasing with your ATM card of debit card immediately draws funds from your checking account.

Follow four steps to minimize online shopping risks:

  1. Purchase through a reputable seller
    This risk can be minimized if you are purchasing through a reputable website that takes appropriate security measures; but even so, card data does get stolen from time to time.

  2. Keep your checking records up to date
    If you decide to use an ATM card after all, make sure to do a bank reconciliation at the same time that you make the purchase. This should help you avoid overdraft fees that might be larger than the cost of what you are purchasing.

  3. Be aware of fraud
    Using an ATM card may require more frequent account-monitoring than most people practice when using a credit card. Review bank account transactions in case there is fraudulent activity or inappropriate use of your debit card. Check your account on a regular basis or sign up for fraud alerts if your institution offers them.

  4. Report fraud quickly
    ATM cards or debit cards often require that you notify the issuer of any unauthorized use within two days in order to limit your liability. Further, there is less protection for fraudulent purchases when using debit cards than when using credit cards.

Despite the fraud protection benefits of credit cards, avoid racking up too much debt. If you use a credit card, make sure you have budgeted for timely repayment of the charge you are making. Don't allow easy access to credit to turn into a debt problem.

Avoid making an online purchase using public Wi-Fi

Making purchases only from your home wireless connection is another tip for credit card safety. Not only do public Wi-Fi connections vary greatly in terms of security, but there are devices that can intercept wireless signals which can be used to steal sensitive financial information like credit and ATM card numbers.

ATM cards are an example of the convenience of modern banking, but customers must avoid turning that convenience into a financial mistake.

If you want to find the best checking account and ATM card for you, visit the MoneyRates checking page.

Got a financial question about saving, investing, or banking? MoneyRates.com invites you to submit your questions to its "Ask the Expert" feature. Just go to the MoneyRates.com home page and look for the "Ask the Expert" box at the bottom of the page.

Comment: Do you use your ATM card to make online purchases?

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brown 30 December 2016 at 10:47 pm

I like your advice thanks

Joe Ntan 31 December 2014 at 12:11 pm

how do i process payment using ATM?