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Shop Safe Online: I Wish I Knew These 12 Tips Earlier

Shop Safe Online: I Wish I Knew These 12 Tips Earlier

There is still a segment of the population that refuses to buy anything online because they are afraid of exposing their financial information to thieves. However, if the recent credit and debit card breach at Target stores taught us anything, it’s that going inside a store to swipe your card doesn’t mean your data is necessarily any safer.

Meanwhile, some of the top products purchased by those who do cluelessly take the plunge and then later regret buying online include cars, used items, clothing, jewelry, furniture, makeup, commemorative coins, big-ticket items, TVs and even human hair weaves.

And yes, while some items should never be purchased online – like illegal drugs and such – that doesn’t mean consumers should give up buying online. Just follow these 12 tips to help you shop safely online:

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1. Shop only on trusted and secure websites.

It should come as a given, but chances are you’re better off turning over your credit or debit card number to a well known website like Amazon instead of a shady-looking, fly-by-night e-store that has been recently set up without secure shopping features.

2. Use the sizing chart provided when shopping for clothes.

Instead of assuming you’d probably fit a size “medium” item of clothing, dig deeper into the annals of the website to determine whether their “medium” fits a waist size of 29 inches and a bust size of 36 inches. Measure yourself to see how the site’s sizing compares to your body in order to help prevent returns.

3. Closely examine the refund policy.

Speaking of returning items, you want to stick with websites whose return policy is as liberal as Amazon or Zappo’s, online retailing giants who are known to put the customer first in many ways. Make sure you’ll be able to send back the item you’ve purchased if you’re not satisfied for any reason and immediately get your money credited back to you.

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4. Perform price comparisons first.

Even online stores like Walmart.com allow third-party sellers to sell goods for jacked-up prices through their site, in many instances at higher rates that allow the sellers to clear a profit. A bit more research might allow you to find the same item for much less by cutting out the middleman.

5. Use your credit card instead of your debit card.

Unfortunately, if you do run into a fraudulent retailer and have used a debit card attached directly to your checking account, the thieves might be able to make off with monies taken out of your account prior to you catching the transaction. Using your credit card can act as a buffer zone to give time to find the transaction and have it reversed or the card canceled.

6. Check your bank activity daily.

Speaking of stolen transactions, sometimes what’s done outside of your online shopping can help you more so than any of the other tips. Only by checking the activity of my card did I find a fraudulent transaction charged to Walmart that I didn’t make, and I was able to immediately cancel the card and get a new one.

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7. Think twice about storing your credit and debit card information online.

Yes, it’s very convenient to save our credit and debit card profiles with various retailers on the web to make future shopping trips go faster, but keeping fewer profiles like these lessens the chance of the entire file being hacked and stolen with your info exposed therein.

8. Read customer reviews.

Feedback from other customers can be very valuable in teaching you what other shoppers had to go through when making their own purchases. If there are plenty of complaints about missing products or bait-and-switch type tactics, steer clear.

9. Beware of the links.

There are times when Google will warn you that “this site may harm your computer” or you can spy out clues that a website is trying to redirect you to a nefarious website. Stay aware and keep away from sites that try to take you into unfamiliar territory when buying online.

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10. Consider offline word-of-mouth.

If you’re not accustomed to shopping online, follow the advice of real-world friends to help you determine the positive experiences they’ve had with various websites.

11. Never send cash.

It sounds crazy, yes, but there are plenty of hucksters out there who attempt to get newbies to wire cash in exchange for products, services or schemes that are nothing but frauds.

12. Keep all of your receipts.

Most websites will provide users with confirmation numbers, transaction numbers and e-mailed receipts directly after a purchase is made. Make sure to take a screenshot of your order success page, print out any confirmations and save all e-mailed receipts in case you ever need proof of your online purchases.

When it flows effortlessly and securely, shopping on the net can be a big blessing. After all, there are times when you might seek out embarrassing personal care products that you don’t necessarily want to tromp down to your cute local pharmacist to purchase. Also, if you are busy, it’s easier to just jump online and have things shipped straight to your house. Thank God for the Internet! Shop safe online and take advantage of the trend that’s here to stay.

Featured photo credit: Businesswoman pressing promotion and shipping type of modern buttons / ra2studio via bigstockphoto.com

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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