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Cash, Credit, or Debit - What Payment Methods are Most Secure?

Posted February 21, 2020 by Dylan Borden
Payment methods

Earlier this week ABC 7 My Suncoast news reached out to ask us some questions about the various payment methods available to consumers today and if there were situations when one would make sense over another (Watch the full story HERE), and after our interview we thought it would be important to share!

So which payment method should you use? Let's explore the various methods and the pros and cons of each!

Cash

Cash will always have its place in the world as it is the most liquid and universally accepted form of currency, making it the best payment method in emergency situations. The biggest issue with cash is once you spend the money it is gone immediately and depending on what you purchased, you may have a difficult time getting a refund if you are not satisfied with the product or service.

On a more positive note, having cash can help with budgeting and with limiting your spending because we tend to be more frugal when we have to physically hand over our hard earned dollars. Using cash can also net you a nice discount as merchants tend to prefer cash transactions over credit card and financing, especially for large purchases for something like a home or car.

Debit

A debit card is essentially cash in a card form and as such can be another great tool to limit spending as the money is immediately removed from your account after a purchase. Debit cards are also great if you are not the most organized when it comes to paying your bills as they can be used to set up recurring payments to make sure you pay rent and other bills on time.

Debit cards, like credit cards, have bumped up their security in recent years. Newer chip cards generate a new authentication code for each purchase unlike older 'strip' cards which could be scanned and replicated. So, although debit cards are safer than before, you still want to be careful as your money is immediately pulled from your account and could be difficult to recover if the purchase turns out to be fraudulent.

Credit v Debit

Other issues with debit cards are overdraft fees which can be quite excessive and the fact that you have to be more responsible when it comes to recognizing fraud. There is typically a shorter window to report a fraudulent charge when compared with a credit card and you could be on the hook for a larger portion if not the entire charge!

Credit

The new king in town! Credit cards are likely your best bet when it comes to security and end-user protection. Unlike debit cards which immediately pull your funds during a transaction, credit cards only pull your funds when you pay your balance giving end users more time to review and report suspicious activity. Not only are credit cards safer than ever before with new chip and tap to pay technologies, but you also have an easier time recovering your funds in the event your card becomes compromised and, typically, credit card companies will only charge up to $50, if anything, when it comes to fraud.

Enhanced security and more time to detect fraud makes credit cards fantastic for most situations whether it be work, when you are worried about security, or when you are traveling. The only real drawback to using a credit card is that if you aren't careful with your spending you could quickly find yourself in debt so we encourage using your cards responsibly!

QUICK TIP: When it comes to online shopping, try to use  only one card for all your online purchases and a different card for recurring monthly payments. This way, if any site you used your card on is compromised and your information is leaked, you don't have to go through and update all your recurring payment accounts when your new card arrives!

Speaking of online shopping... avoid making purchases on sites that do NOT display a padlock symbol next to their URL:

Secure Connection

This symbol means the site has a secure connection and any information you submit is private. If a site does not have this symbol you cannot be sure who (fingers crossed it's not a hacker) has access to the data you enter (contact info, date of birth, credit card, etc...) Be careful - always look for the lock!

Digital Wallet

If you own a smart phone you have likely been prompted by either Apple or Google to try out their virtual digital services (Apple Wallet, Google Pay) and if you haven't given it a shot now might be the time. These virtual wallets are essentially digital versions of your credit card and thus they carry the same benefits and protections as your real card.

If anything, these virtual cards may even be safer as they offer additional layers of security whether it be finger print scanning, facial recognition, or two-factor authentication. These services take advantage of tokenization essentially turning your card into a token which is used to make transactions instead of sending over the actual card number, your name, etc...

The only real drawback to using this payment method is limited availability. Not every merchant has been as quick to adapt to this new technology thus you may run into situations where you are limited to using your physical card or cash.

Peer-2-Peer

Peer-2-peer apps, like Venmo and Cash App, have become increasingly popular given their simple interface, ease of use, and ability to solve the dilemma of splitting a happy hour bill among friends. They make it easy to request funds from other parties and can make splitting rent, bills, or whatever, a cinch.

Peer2peer-1

The thing is, these applications, as the name states, are meant for personal transactions, not business transactions or the purchase of goods and services, which has resulted in some confusion and given rise to various issues.

First off, refunds are not guaranteed meaning you should personally know the party on the receiving end. If it's a case of $5 for pizza you might not be concerned, but, if it's over $1,000 for rent you'll likely want to know how to get your money back! You should understand each apps policy when it comes to refunds. Venmo, for instance, specifically states that they will help you try to recover funds but there is no guarantee you will get your money back. 

Users can also be banned from an app or face fines if they misuse their service, and, because of that, you should also be cautious of any business asking for payment via a peer-2-peer service as it could point to fraud. 

Crypto Crypto currency

Cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Litecoin, etc.) has been around for some time but it is still one of the least understood forms of currency which makes it difficult to use in most situations. Very few companies in the United States currently accept crypto and even if you find one, I would caution paying with this method as there is currently no laws governing refunds when it comes to crypto payments which means you are essentially  at the mercy of the particular vendor when it comes to getting your money back which is not always easy...

Check

Why checks are still in use today is beyond me as they are possibly the most risky forms of payment out there. Just think for a second, about how much of your information is on every single check... You've got your name, full address, bank account number, routing number, and your signature! If a check falls into the wrong hands you could be giving up the keys to the kingdom.

That being the case, checks should really only be used in situations that require payment by check and only when you are familiar with and trust the recipient. Common situations being security deposits and larger B2B type purchases.

Gift Card and Wire Transfer

Fraud alertIf you ever find a merchant requiring payment via gift card or wire transfer, turn and run the other direction! This is almost guaranteed to be some type of scam or fraud, and recovering your funds would likely be impossible. With all the various payment methods available to merchants it would be unthinkable for any creditable business to ask to be compensated in this manner. 

Conclusion

The right payment method is going to be dependent on your situation, budget, and security concerns. Generally, your best bet is going to be a credit card or a virtual credit card stored in a digital wallet as they afford the most security and forgiveness when it comes to fraud. To learn more about the various security services available to you, contact your bank or financial institution and take advantage of your options!

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filed under: Local I.T., Tech Tips