Shopping online: The case for credit cards

November 01, 2021
A cat sitting between the arms of its owner as they put their credit card info into a laptop.

The holidays are practically close enough to touch, and it’s very possible that your holiday shopping is well underway. You may be doing more shopping online for gifts and everything else it takes to make it all merry, simply because it’s more convenient. Then there’s the case for great online deals, which we addressed in our last blog.

So, cocoa in hand, you sit down to search out the deals. But before you start clicking, you’ve got to grab your plastic — and we think credit cards are great tools for holiday shopping. Why, you ask? Let’s go through the reasons together.

It’s a security thing. Credit card mobile apps often have a broad range of fraud-prevention security features that you can set up on your account, such as two-factor authentication (i.e., adding a second step like requiring a passcode via text or email to ensure that you’re the one accessing the account), account alerts that notify you via text or email for “card not present” transactions, account freezing in the event of possible fraud, and more.

Add a safety net. In the unfortunate event that your card information is compromised, not only is a credit card not tied to your bank account information, but you are liable for no more than $50 of fraudulent transactions as long as you report the incident within 60 days (thank you, Fair Credit Billing Act). However, most credit cards offer zero fraud liability, so if someone does get your credit card number and makes an online purchase, chances are good you’ll be covered for the entire amount if you report it in a timely manner. Most credit card issuers will put the fraudulent charge on hold while they investigate, so you won’t be out the money in the meantime, either.

Get (purchase) protection. Purchase protection, a benefit offered by many popular credit cards, can help you replace items bought with your card if they are stolen, damaged, or lost (in some cases) within a certain time frame. Qualifying items may be repaired or replaced, or you may receive reimbursement for the purchase price. This feature extends to the recipient of gift items that you order and have shipped, which may come in handy if an item arrives broken. Select card issuers may also allow you to dispute a charge with them if you receive the wrong item and the merchant fails to remedy the issue.

Take them up on their (card-linked) offer. Card-linked offer programs provide users with merchant discounts or cash back rewards when purchases are made at a participating business. You’ll either receive a discount at the time of purchase or get a rebate in the form of cash back or a statement credit. Some programs require you to activate deals before using them, so you might need to select offers to link to your card via your bank’s website or app (totally worth checking before you shop online — you may end up with a sweet holiday bonus!).

Point(s) taken. Reward points are another great reason to use your card for your online gift and gathering shopping, as they allow cardholders to earn one or more points per dollar in spending. Many reward card programs provide bonus points for certain types of spending, like restaurants, gas, or groceries. Points can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, or merchandise when certain spending levels are reached. And in the case of a credit card from UBT, you’d not only be earning more points and cash back, you’d also receive local service from people you trust, plus a competitive APR. That’s a pretty good payoff!

Sign up. Credit card sign-up (or welcome) bonuses are extra rewards, such as cash back, points, or miles earned by spending a minimum amount within a certain period.

Build it up. Your credit history, that is. By paying off the balance in full each month, you avoid paying interest. Carrying a small balance is OK, too, if you make your payments on time and try to pay more than the minimum due. Carrying a little debt and having a positive repayment history can improve your credit score.

By choosing a credit card as your preferred plastic for online purchases — and even better, adding it to your mobile wallet — you are offered a few more perks, some sweet bonuses, and a bit more peace of mind, which is priceless. Regardless of how you shop, stay safe and happy this holiday season, and don’t forget to buy local whenever possible; many community retailers offer some great online deals.

Want more expert advice and helpful info on credit cards? Click here.

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