Can I use my ATM card to buy things online?

Q: I have a question about buying things online. Can I use my ATM card to do this? 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 questions raises some points about making online shopping that are worth reviewing.

Look at card issuer and retailer policies

Different online retailers and stores have different policies and practices, but whether your 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 debit card while online shopping

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 a debit card.

  • Purchase through a reputable seller. This risk can be minimized if you are purchasing through a reputable website with appropriate security measures, but even so, card data does get stolen from time to time.
  • Keep checking records up to date. If you decide to use a debit card after all, make sure you update your checking account records at the same time that you make the purchase. This will help you avoid overdraft fees that might be larger than the cost of what you are purchasing. 
  • Be aware of fraud. Using a debit card may require more frequent account monitoring than most people practice if they use 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.
  • Report fraud quickly. Debit cards 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 online purchases using public Wi-Fi connections

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, and thus be used to steal sensitive financial information like credit and debit card numbers.

ATM cards are an example of the convenience of modern banking, but the important thing for customers is not to turn that convenience into an easy way to make financial mistakes.

If you want to find the best checking account and ATM and debit 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 on the lower left.

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

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brown 30 December 2016 at 2:47 pm

I like your advice thanks

Joe Ntan 31 December 2014 at 4:11 am

how do i process payment using ATM?