The 4 Safest Online Payment Methods
1. Credit Cards
2. Debit Cards
3. Payment Apps (Digital Wallets)
4. Wire/SWIFT Transfer
With cybercriminals now stealing over 33 billion records annually, personal information security has become the biggest consideration factor for consumers when choosing an online payment method.
In this article, we’re revealing exactly what they all want to see on your ecommerce store.
This is a compilation of the safest online payment methods that will keep your business in its good books through 2023.
Is Online Payment Safe?
Whereas online payments are exceedingly convenient, they still attract significant risks for both business and their customers.
The sensitive information transmitted during online payment processing can be intercepted, stolen, and accessed by unauthorized parties. We’re talking about credit card numbers, bank account details, contact data, etc.
So far, the biggest risk facing online payments is fraud.
🔎 According to Statista, online payment frauds have led to ecommerce businesses losing about $41 billion in 2022.
The situation has deteriorated even further, with annual losses from online payment fraud expected to surpass $48 billion in 2023.
You can blame it on the rise of fraudulent activities in the digital landscape. Fraudsters are now using a wide range of sophisticated approaches to exploit vulnerabilities in online payment systems.
They run phishing scams, card skimming rackets, account takeovers, chargeback fraud, identity theft, you name it.
Another major risk associated with online payments is data breaches, occasioned by hackers. They break into business databases and steal customers’ card data, account credentials, social security particulars, etc.
One way to shield your online payments from such risks is by implementing a multi-layered security system.
You need a payment service that not only processes various forms of transactions but also does it all while adhering to all industry safety standards.
Consumers themselves will appreciate any efforts that you make to safeguard their shopping experiences.
Payment security tends to build brand credibility, drive customer loyalty, and speed up the conversion process.
What are the Safest Online Payment Methods?
1. Credit Cards
Credit cards are financial tools that allow individuals to make purchases or obtain cash advances on credit. They come in the form of chipped or magnetic-stripped plastic cards, all of which are issued by banks or financial institutions.
Through their credit card, users get to borrow money up to a predetermined credit limit. This is what they use to transact, after which the borrowed funds are paid back along with the accrued interest charges.
One thing that safeguards credit card transactions is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
Most major credit card companies even happen to be members of the PCI Security Standards Council, which works to develop and enhance the security of card transactions and digital payment processing.
Brands like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Wells Fargo, and Chase.
It’s these credit card providers that audit transactions for fraudulent activity. In the event a payment is made from a stolen card, the legitimate owner should be able to reclaim their funds upon submitting evidence.
Those anti-fraud measures are reinforced by multiple payment security features that come embedded within credit cards and the underlying payment networks.
Verified by Visa, for instance, is a feature that authenticates a cardholder's identity using the 3-D protocol.
It basically prompts your customers to enter a password or answer a security question whenever they attempt to perform an online transaction.
Credit card providers have also developed AVS, which is short for Address Verification Service. This is what allows you to verify a customer's billing address with the card issuer.
Then to help you ascertain that the customer is in possession of the physical card when making online transactions, credit card companies have provided CVV (Card Verification Value).
Safety features of credit card transactions
- Fraud scoring to identify high-risk transactions.
- Behavioral analytics to detect unusual transaction patterns.
- Device fingerprinting to identify devices used for transactions.
- Dynamic CVV for verification.
- SSL encryption.
- Two-factor authentication.
- Geolocation-based fraud detection.
- Biometric identification for customer authentication.
- Tokenization to secure card data.
- AVS for address verification.
Drawbacks of credit card transactions
- Accepted by only a handful of ecommerce merchants.
- Could negatively impact your credit score.
- Often comes with hidden charges.
- Could be used for identity theft.
- Levies high interest rates.
2. Debit Cards
Although debit and credit cards are processed in the same way, they differ in how the account is funded. Both types of cards go through three steps: authorization, settlement, and funding – but unlike credit cards, debit cards deduct money directly from the customer’s checking account.
The payment process begins when the cardholder initiates a transaction by entering their card information into your online payment gateway.
The payment gateway will then request payment authorization from its payment processor.
The request is subsequently relayed to the card provider, which then passes it on to the issuing bank. The bank ultimately verifies the cardholder's information and either approves or declines the transaction.
The status of the transaction is then sent back through the payment network to the merchant bank.
Through this entire process, debit cards leverage various security features to protect against fraud and unauthorized use.
Some of the primary ones include Personal Identification Number (PIN), EMV chip technology, 2-factor authentication, fraud monitoring, purchase limits, and card activation.
Issuing banks additionally monitor debit card activity for signs of fraudulent transactions. In case of any suspicious activity, the card is automatically blocked or frozen. It’ll then remain inactive until the cardholder activates it.
2-factor authentication, on the other hand, acts as an extra layer of protection against unauthorized access. And if it’s ever breached, customers are still protected by their debit card purchase limits, which caps the amount they can spend on a single purchase.
Safety features of debit card transactions
- Purchase protection guarantees.
- Automatic transaction confirmation messages.
- Biometric authentication.
- Encryption of sensitive data.
- Card blocking or freezing.
- Geo-location restrictions.
- Purchase limits.
- Fraud monitoring.
- Two-factor authentication.
- PIN (Personal Identification Number)
Drawbacks of debit card transactions
- If a disputed transaction is not resolved in the cardholder's favor, they may not have as many options for recourse.
- Don't help to build credit like credit cards do.
- Less fraud protection than credit cards.
- Some banks may charge foreign transaction fees for debit card transactions made in other countries.
- Some merchants may place a temporary hold on funds in a debit card account.
3. Payment Apps (Digital Wallets)
Digital wallets are special payment apps that store credit, debit, and gift card information in one portal, so you can make purchases without a physical card.
There is a variety of options available on the web – PayPal, Google Wallet, Payoneer, Skrill, XanPay, Venmo, Samsung Wallet, Apple Pay, Cash App, etc.
These online payment services allow account holders to perform transactions without sharing their private information with third parties. Once customers upload their cards to the digital wallet account, they just need a single phone tap to make an online payment.
And if the seller ever fails to deliver the goods or services that have been paid for, digital wallet services often have a "buyer protection" program.
Another major security advantage of digital wallet transactions is the multiple layers of security that are in place to protect buyer information. You’ll be covered by not just the payment app, but also your retail outlet, the underlying credit card company, as well as the issuing bank.
That said, what really sets digital wallets apart from traditional credit and debit cards is their use of tokenization. This security method encodes the account holder’s information so heavily that even if the retailer's system got hacked, card numbers would never be compromised.
When processing transactions, digital wallets replace your card data with a unique, single-use payment code. That way, your personal information is kept safe from prying eyes.
This is a stark contrast to physical credit or debit card transactions, which record card information in their payment processing system. Every single time a customer performs a card transaction, they give away their name, card number, expiration date, and service code – all of which could potentially be exposed in the event of a data breach.
Safety features of digital wallets
- Secure servers to store user data.
- Detailed payment history for each transaction.
- PIN protection.
- Automatic logout after a certain period of inactivity.
- Confirmation of transactions before processing.
- Real-time transaction alerts.
- Contactless payment limits.
- Two-factor authentication.
- Remote device wiping.
- Geolocation restrictions.
- Fraud monitoring.
- Device authentication.
- Encryption algorithms.
Drawbacks of digital wallets
- May compel users to share personal information with third-party providers.
- Require a stable internet connection to securely process online payments.
- Subject to technical glitches or errors.
- Vulnerable to hacking or cyber-attacks.
- Not accepted by all online stores.
4. Wire/SWIFT Transfer
Wire transfer is a secure payment method used to move money from one bank account to another.
It’s particularly ideal for large transactions and international payments, which always capitalize on its strong end-to-end encryption and authentication features.
Unlike physical cash exchanges, wire transfers are settled electronically. The funds can be sent between banks or through non-bank entities like Western Union.
To initiate a wire transfer, a sender must pay for the transaction upfront at their bank. This should be accompanied by the recipient's details – including their name, address, contact number, and personal information.
💡 Learn more about how long wire transfers take and the different factors that can delay a transfer.
Senders are additionally required to fill in the recipient's banking information. They have to be accurate with not just the account and branch numbers, but also the receiving bank's information.
This includes the institution's name, address, and bank identifier (routing number or SWIFT code).
The Banking institutions are then left to exchange information about the recipient, the receiving account number, and the amount being transferred. All these payment instructions are usually relayed securely via SWIFT or Fedwire networks.
Upon receiving the info from the initiating bank, the recipient’s bank proceeds to deposit funds into the payment account.
The two banking institutions then settle payment on the back end after the money has already been deposited.
SWIFT here refers to the global messaging network that financial institutions use for communication. But, it doesn't transfer funds or act as a banking system – the SWIFT network only sends out payment orders between banks using SWIFT codes.
💡 Discover how SWIFT payments work and get the inside scoop with our in-depth guide.
To prevent cyberattacks and the negative consequences they can have on businesses, consumers, and organizations worldwide, SWIFT developed its Customer Security Programme (CSP).
The CSP also has a Payment Controls service that mitigates the risk of fraud. It monitors payments in real-time while keeping tabs on behavioral patterns. Whenever any suspicious or out-of-policy messages are flagged, the system proceeds to send out alerts.
This approach promotes individual and shared responsibility for securing online payment methods.
SWIFT customers secure their own environments, detect fraud among their counterparties, and freely share information that can protect against future threats.
Safety features of Wire/SWIFT Transfer
- Regular security audits and updates.
- Compliance with PCI DSS standards.
- Real-time monitoring of transactions.
- Secure messaging protocols for communication between banks.
- Advanced fraud prevention measures such as biometric authentication.
- Automated fraud detection systems.
- Two-factor authentication for high-value transactions.
- Dedicated security teams to monitor transactions.
- Digital signatures to ensure the integrity of data.
- Authentication of both senders and recipients.
- End-to-end data encryption.
Drawbacks of Wire/SWIFT Transfer
- Senders may have limited control over the transfer once it has been initiated.
- Subject to errors or delays caused by technical issues with the banking systems.
- Risky if the recipient's bank account is frozen or inaccessible for any reason.
- Banks may require additional documentation or information for wire transfers.
- Banks may have different cut-off times.
- The transfers are irreversible.
- Senders must have the recipient's banking information.
- Take several business days to be completed
How to Ensure the Safety of Your Online Payment?
As an ecommerce business owner, you can ensure the safety of your online payment systems by using the following :
- Secure payment gateway: Your online store’s payment gateway should be reliable in not only processing transactions but also protecting your customers' sensitive information. You can start by reviewing each solution’s compliance status with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). This is a set of rules that guarantees the safe handling of credit card data. What’s more, you should check to ensure that the data transmissions are duly encrypted with SSL or TLS.
- Two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication adds a layer of login security, thereby mandating users to provide two distinct forms of identification. You could, for instance, require each customer to enter their account password along with an SMS code. This will minimize the likelihood of unauthorized account access.
- Fraud detection measures: One way to prevent payment fraud is by integrating fraud detection systems, which utilize specialized tools designed to flag and block off suspicious activities. A fraudster may, for example, set off alarm bells by repeatedly trying to purchase with different credit cards or from varying IP addresses.
- Regularly monitoring and updating systems: By diligently monitoring your online payment systems, you’ll be able to detect any suspicious activity that could jeopardize your customers' financial information. Then to safeguard the business from any potential vulnerabilities that may arise due to outdated payment systems, you might want to stay up-to-date with the latest security patches.
- Educating customers: Keep teaching your customers about the importance of safe online payment practices. You could, for instance, caution them against sharing card information, even with friends and family members. You might also want to get them up to speed with the data security risks associated with public Wi-Fi networks.
In the world of online payments, the old adage "better safe than sorry" will always apply.
But, keep in mind that there's no such thing as a 100% safe online payment method.
What we have, instead, are reputable payment platforms that have proven to be effective at mitigating vulnerabilities across the four most secure payment channels – credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, and wire transfers.
By investing in those digital payment solutions, your business will not only minimize the risk of online payment fraud and data breaches but also drive customer loyalty and retention.
After all, the only thing better than making money is keeping it safe and sound.
What are the safest online payment methods?
Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Digital Wallets and Wire/SWIFT transfer.
How to ensure the safety of your online payment?
What should I do if I suspect fraudulent activity on my online payment account?