Online Shopping can be overwhelming, but is very convenient and useful when done correctly.
Which websites to use, how to be safe, how to navigate and understand the listings, and payment methods are all important aspects of online shopping.
Which Websites to Shop On
When choosing which websites to shop on, there is a few criteria to keep in mind.
The main ones are reputation and popularity. Put simply, more reputable websites are typically also more popular, which can translate to better security and reliability.
Some examples of websites that are well known and typically hassle free are:
- Major chain/company such as Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Staples etc.
- CarFax, Carvana, Autotrader
There are also websites that allow 3rd party sales and may not be as reliable.
eBay is the most notable and is a trusted website. They also offer a certain level of purchase protection that some other websites do not.
A couple that are a little bit more risky when making a purchase are Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
Google Shopping can be a useful tool as well. But listings can lead to some less than ideal websites that will not offer the same level of customer support as the better sites listed above.
How to stay safe when online shopping
As stated above, using reputable websites is one of the best ways to stay safe.
It is important that credit card info is not input into a malicious website posing to be a real one.
If unsure about whether or not a website is legitimate, searching the websites name and the word “legitimate” can often give some insight into whether or not it is a good place to shop.
See also how to make safe payments below.
Each website will look different but the format on should be similar.
The Image above displays laptops searched on Amazon.com
This page may look a bit busy, but is fairly simple when understood.
The left side of the screen offers filters for narrowing down a purchase. Often by Brand, Price, Reviews, Size or Type. If the item has a specific feature, there may also be additional filters.
The main body of the page will show different product listings.
The very top of the page has website controls, sections, a search bar and the cart. These can be used to refine a search.
If interested in an item, click on it and a detailed page like this will appear.
This laptop is a good example of an item that has multiple variants.
The 6 boxes in the middle are all different versions, each with different specifications at different price points.
It is important when shopping online to look on competitors sites in order to get the best price.
Model numbers are helpful to confirm that items on different websites are the same product.
Google Shopping is a good tool to do this. Simply search for the item using Google search and click on the shopping tab.
It is important not to fall for scam websites. One clue might be that they offer products at ridiculously low prices. Typically it is too good to be true or there are more strings attached.
Some websites and chains are a little more expensive, but usually have better customer service if things go wrong.
There are multiple ways to safely make payments online.
Most websites give you the option of using Credit/Debit cards or some sort of third party payment option such as Paypal, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, or Apple pay.
Some will give you the option to use Zelle, Venmo, or Cash App as well.
It is important to trust the website before entering any personal billing information.
Paypal and any of the pay wallets are typically more secure, as they protect the billing information that has been input into their websites when on external sites. They transfer money to the seller, but not the billing information itself.
Putting Credit Card info into a trusted website is secure and shouldn’t be an issue. Checking for the lock icon in the address bar can also indicate if a website has some level of security.
Most credit cards allow users to dispute a fraudulent charge. Debit cards often do not have this service.
Unfortunately, there have been instances of large corporations such as Target, Uber, Home Depot, Twitch etc. having data breaches in the past. Nothing is completely safe in that regard.
Though it can be alarming, it is actually fairly common to have to replace a credit card due to some exposure of the number. Banks catch these issues regularly.
The best way to assure your card’s security is to keep a close eye on the transactions. If anything seems out of the ordinary or fraudulent, contact the bank immediately. The sooner these things are contested, the better chance they will be resolved.
Zelle, Venmo, and Cash app are great options to use when purchasing through a website like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. They offer a bit more protection than cash or checks. Paypal is also a good option for that.
If you have specific questions about online shopping, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!