Credit or Debit?
Shopping online is easiest with plastic, but some plastic is better than others. It's advisable only to use credit cards, rather than debit cards, for online shopping. Credit cards represent an extension of credit, while debit cards draw directly from your bank account. Once in possession of your banking information, hackers can do much more damage to your finances than with your credit card number.
Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, consumers are protected in the event of identity theft or fraud -- if they use a credit card. This law protects account holders by limiting their fraud liability to $50. Payments for unauthorized charges to a credit card can also be put on hold and investigated [source: FTC]. Even better, most credit card companies offer more protection, sometimes limiting consumer liability for fraud to zero. Using a debit card affords you some federal protection as well. If you notify your bank of a fraudulent debit card purchase within two days your liability is limited to $50; after that it raises to $500 [source: Bankrate].
Most credit card companies now offer single-use credit card numbers for online shopping. These expire after one purchase and only your credit card company knows which account it's linked to.
Using only one credit card for online shopping is another great way to head off potential online shopping headaches [source: Consumer Reports]. If you have one credit card number sent via cyberspace, the potential for fraud is limited to that one account. Should a hacker come by your account information, you'll have only that credit card company to contend with.