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How to use a credit card for online shopping

Credit cards are a secure and simple way to pay online. Here's how it works and how to keep your information safe.

Credit cards are a convenient, secure and popular payment option when you're shopping online. They are widely accepted and offer security features such as 24/7 fraud monitoring, zero liability for fraudulent transactions and sometimes even offer extra verification for your purchases.

Some credit cards also offer points and other perks. Here's how to pay by credit card, how to keep your information safe and how they compare to other payment options.

Steps to pay by credit card online

To get started, you need your credit card (or all of the details on it) and your personal and contact details. If you're new to this process or hardly ever use a card for online purchases, follow these steps to make the checkout process as smooth as possible.

  1. Check the website is secure

    Before you submit any details, make sure you are shopping on a safe website. There are 2 security signs to look for: the website URL should start with the letters "https" and there should be an image of a small padlock, usually in the top left-hand corner of the address bar.

  2. Select your item/s and check out

    Add items to your cart as you shop. When you're finished and ready to pay, find your items in the bag or trolley (often in the top right-hand corner of the web page) and select "checkout".

  3. Enter your details

    Fill in the fields marked with an asterisk to provide details like your name, address, phone number and email address.

  4. Choose your payment method

    You will be asked how you want to pay. As well as credit card and debit card options, you may be able to choose PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.

  5. Provide your credit card details

    Enter the name on the front of the card, the 16-digit card number, the expiry and the CVC or CVV number (the 3-digit number on the back).

  6. Confirm the purchase

    Check the purchase amount and your details again before clicking "confirm", keeping in mind that shipping costs and other fees may have been added. Any potential credit card fees that your credit card provider charges will only be shown on your credit card account.

  7. Follow the prompts for any extra security measures

    If your card has Visa Secure, Mastercard SecureCode or American Express SafeKey as a security feature, you may be asked to enter a password, answer a security question or type in a one-time code that would be sent to your mobile phone before the payment can be completed.

  8. Keep a copy of the payment confirmation

    Most online stores will email you a tax invoice. You can also download or print the webpage that shows your payment is confirmed, if you prefer. These details will help you track your order and make sure the correct amount is charged to your card. You'll also need the proof of your purchase to dispute the transaction if you don't get what you paid for.

How much does it cost to pay by credit card?

Some online stores apply a card payment fee or surcharge which you'll see at the virtual checkout. But fees from your credit card provider will only appear in your account or on your statement. There are 2 main ones to look for:

Finder survey: How often do Australians use their credit card?

ResponseGen ZGen YGen XBaby Boomers
Less often2.72%2.63%1.7%
Only for emergencies0.54%0.33%1.42%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1113 Australians, December 2023

How to choose a credit card for online shopping

If you're looking for a credit card to use online, here are some of the card types and features that could benefit you:

  • No currency conversion fees. If you often make purchases from online merchants that are based overseas, you should consider a credit card that doesn't charge foreign currency conversion fees. These fees are usually between 3% and 5% of the transaction fee.
  • Fraud protection. Most credit cards offer fraud protection guarantees (such as Visa and Mastercard's zero liability policies), which means you won't be liable for any unauthorised transactions made with your card. Terms and conditions usually apply (like reporting the fraudulent transaction within a specific number of days). Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards also have fraud monitoring systems in place, so you'll usually be notified as soon as a suspicious transaction is made.
  • A store card. You could consider using a card that's linked with a specific retailer. For example Coles or the Kogan Money Credit Card will all give you points or rewards at their respective stores.
  • Low or 0% interest fees. If you're planning to make some big-ticket purchases online or think you'll struggle to repay your balance in full each month, you could consider a card that charges a low ongoing interest rate or a promotional 0% on purchases.
  • A rewards card. If you shop online and always pay your credit card balance in full, you could earn points as you spend with a rewards credit card.

Compare cards now

Is it safe to pay with a credit card online?

While most online shopping goes off without a hitch, fraud and cybercrime does exist and can impact your credit card account, as well as debit cards and other payment methods. Credit cards offer a mix of features to help keep your account safe, which can include the following options:

  • Fraud-monitoring services. A lot of credit card providers use 24-hour fraud-monitoring services to help detect and report suspicious activity. When something unusual is detected, the credit card provider will contact you to check whether you made the transaction. If a transaction can't be verified, your account may be temporarily blocked while your card provider looks into it.
  • Added verification steps. Services like American Express SafeKey, Mastercard SecureCode and Visa Secure help protect your card from unauthorised transactions. Partnered businesses ask for either a one-time code sent to your phone, or a password or security answer that you've set up previously.
  • Zero liability policies. A zero liability policy is a type of insurance cover that protects you from paying for fraudulent or unauthorised transactions. The fraudulent transaction(s) will be refunded back to your account, usually after an investigation by your credit card provider.

As well as your credit card's security measures, online payments are processed through secure, encrypted pages that help keep your data safe from cyber criminals. You can also get extra protection by checking your web browser's security settings, downloading antivirus software or using a VPN (virtual private network).

5 tips to help you stay safe when shopping online

Credit cards, websites and devices all offer different levels of protection when you're shopping online. But you can use these tips everywhere to get even more security.

  1. Check that the web address starts with HTTPS. This shows the page you're visiting is secured. You should also see a locked padlock. If it's not there, contact the store or read the privacy and security policy to find out what protection is in place.
  2. Look for contact details and refund/returns policies. Legitimate business websites include details you can use in case there are any issues. Before you buy anything, check for a street address, phone number and details of how to get a refund or return an item. If you can't find this information, don't make a purchase until you're sure the site is safe.
  3. Use a private, secure Internet connection. While lots of places now offer free, public Wi-Fi, it is less secure than a personal, private connection such as the one you would have at home. According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre, some criminals have even set up public Wi-Fi connections as a way to steal peoples' bank or card details, as well as other personal information.
  4. Keep track of where you save your card details. It might be convenient to save your credit card details with websites and apps, but it means your card information will be stored by a third-party service and could be at risk.
  5. Go through your transaction history. This will help you spot suspicious activity. You can check your transactions by logging in to your account or going over your monthly credit card statement. If you use a few different cards, you could also consider getting the Finder app to keep track of all your spending in one place.

It's easy and safe to pay with a credit card online – and the right one could help you keep your details safe, earn points per $1 spent or save you money on currency conversion fees. So it's worth comparing a few different ones so you can get a credit card that fits with your goals. If you've got a credit card you're happy with, you can also use this calculator to work out repayments that are affordable and help keep interest costs down.

Compare credit cards

Name Product Purchase rate p.a. Balance transfer rate p.a. Annual fee Interest-free period
Bankwest Breeze Classic Mastercard
0% for 12 months, then 12.99%
0% for 12 months with 2% balance transfer fee, then 12.99%
Up to 55 days on purchases
Save with 0% p.a. on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (with a 2% BT fee).
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% for 12 months, then 12.99%
0% for 12 months with 2% balance transfer fee, then 12.99%
Up to 55 days on purchases
Get 0% p.a. interest on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (with a 2% BT fee). Plus 0% foreign fees and complimentary overseas travel insurance.
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard
0% for 6 months, then 20.74%
Up to 55 days on purchases
Save with an ongoing $0 annual fee and 0% interest on purchases for the first 6 months.
Virgin Money No Annual Fee Credit Card
0% for 6 months, then 19.99%
Up to 55 days on purchases
Save with a $0 annual fee and 0% p.a. on purchases for 6 months.
Credit Union SA Education Community Credit Card
0% for 6 months, then 11.49%
0% for 6 months, then 11.49%
Up to 55 days on purchases
Save with an ongoing $0 annual fee and 0% p.a. interest on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
More Info
NAB StraightUp Card
Save with 0% p.a. interest charges and 0% foreign transaction fees. Plus, $0 monthly fees when you don't use the card or carry a balance.
More Info
Citi Simplicity Card
0% for 6 months, then 21.49%
0% for 6 months, then 22.24%
Up to 55 days on purchases
Get 0% p.a. interest on purchases and balance transfers for 6 months and an ongoing $0 annual fee.
More Info
CommBank Neo Card
Borrow up to $3,000 with no interest charges - just a monthly fee that depends on your credit limit. Plus, 0% foreign transaction fees.
More Info

What about other ways to pay online?

If you want to pay online without a credit card, below are some of the other payment options you can use:

Payment optionsDescription
Debit cardYou can use your debit card to make online purchases at any store that accepts Visa or Mastercard payments. You need to enter the same card details as you would when using a credit card. Note that card payment fees (surcharges), currency conversion fees or other charges sometimes apply for debit cards as well as credit cards, so it's worth checking what costs the shop and your bank will apply before you pay.
PayPalPayPal lets you store your payment details so you can make secure, fast payments without needing to enter your card information at the online checkout. It's free to create an account and shop with PayPal and your details are protected by unique data encryption. PayPal also offers buyer protection options, including refunds if you successfully lodge a dispute against the online retailer. Plus, you can still earn credit card reward points on some cards when you pay through PayPal.
Digital walletsIf you have Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay or another digital wallet, look for the logo and you'll be able to use it for your online shopping.
Buy now pay laterLots of stores now offer buy now pay later services such as Afterpay, Zip, Openpay and Humm. If you already have a buy now pay later account, selecting that option at the checkout will prompt you to log in and complete the purchase. If you don't have an account but want one, you may be able to sign up as part of the purchase process. You can also find out how buy now pay later compares to using a credit card here.
Prepaid cardsIf you don't want to use your personal debit card or a credit card, you could consider buying a prepaid charge card that allows you to preload funds onto it. These cards are helpful for controlling expenditure, and they may also help reduce impulse purchases.
Travel money cardsSimilar to a prepaid card, a travel money card lets you preload money onto the card – except in this case, you can load and spend funds in multiple currencies. This can help you avoid foreign transaction fees that your credit or debit card may charge when you're shopping online or travelling overseas.
BPAYBPAY is an easy, free way to pay registered businesses directly from your Australian bank account. It's usually offered by energy, phone, Internet and credit card providers but you can also use BPAY with some online stores too. This Finder guide looks at which online stores accept BPAY and how it works. You can also look for the BPAY logo, search the BPAY website or contact a business directly to see if it's available.
Gift cardsGift cards can be a useful alternative for online shopping with specific retailers, such as iTunes or JB Hi-Fi. Sometimes you can also take advantage of discounts on gift card purchases. You can purchase most gift cards in-store or online but it's worth checking the fine print to make sure you can use them to buy what you want.

Images: Shutterstock

To make sure you get accurate and helpful information, this guide has been edited by Joelle Grubb as part of our fact-checking process.
Amy Bradney-George's headshot

Amy Bradney-George was the senior writer for credit cards at Finder, and editorial lead for Finder Green. She has over 16 years of editorial experience and has been featured in publications including ABC News, Money Magazine and The Sydney Morning Herald. See full bio

Amy's expertise
Amy has written 596 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Credit cards
  • Frequent flyer
  • Credit score
  • BNPL
  • Money management
  • Sustainability

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One Response

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    Aracelymo87July 17, 2018

    Excellent postings Many thanks!

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