Are Debit Cards the Safest Way to Pay Online? – Best Payments Methods for Privacy

Debit cards are a quick, convenient way to shop online. They also help you control your spending, as you can only spend the money in your checking account. But are debit cards the most secure online payment method? 

The short answer is, no. Debit card fraud resulted in losses amounting to $140 million according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2021 Data Book. Debit cards also made up 15.7% of all financial fraud reports associated with a payment method.

If you shouldn’t use debit cards, then what’s the best alternative? In this article, I cover the safest online payment methods to use in different situations.

However secure your payment method is, you can lose money if you’re not careful. That’s why I recommend you practice good cyber hygiene. Make sure you’re transacting on a secure site, monitor your account for unauthorized activity, and secure your internet connection with a VPN

Cybercriminals can easily intercept sensitive data such as your identity, transactions, and bank details to steal your money. A VPN adds an additional layer of security to your traffic and makes your data invisible to outsiders. Get CyberGhost VPN to make paying online safer whatever method you use.

Risks Involved in Online Payments

Cybercrime is on the rise around the world. Many criminals target online payment methods. Before I discuss the safest ways to pay online, let’s go over the risks involved in online transactions.

Identity theft and scams are the two primary dangers associated with digital payments. Bad actors try to get hold of your banking details or card information and use them to steal your money. When it comes to scams, you can lose money if you purchase a fake product or service or believe a phony story.

How Can Cybercriminals Gain Access to Your Sensitive Data?

Fraudsters have many cunning ways to get you to share your banking details or make a fake purchase. You know not to share this information with strangers, but fraudsters’ requests can often seem surprisingly legitimate. They may use professional email templates and logos to make you think you’re communicating with an organization or business you have links with.

The only way to stay safe from threats of this kind is to be cautious. No security technology can help you if you choose to hand over your credit card details.

Thieves may also gain access to your credit card or bank account details if they breach a company’s online security. For example, you may share your payment details on a website and black-hat hackers manage to steal that information from the site. Although this is out of your control, you can still lower the risk by checking the security of the site or using a payment method like PayPal. 

Skilled cybercriminals can also hack into your internet connection and get their hands on banking or payment details without your knowledge. This is more likely when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi, but it’s also a possibility on your home network. The best way to avoid this risk is to secure your connection with a high-quality VPN like CyberGhost.

Visual representation of how CyberGhost VPN encrypts your information
Your online payment data is up for grabs if you don’t use a VPN.

We protect your connection with military-grade VPN encryption so no one can intercept your traffic. This gives an extra layer of security when you make online payments when connected to a public or private network.

What are the Most Secure Payment Methods?

Debit cards aren’t the safest way to pay online. Features like 3D Secure, CVV, and OTP (one-time password) verification help boost security to some extent, but safer alternatives exist

Credit cards make it easy for you to reverse transactions while prepaid cards help keep your personal information off the internet. Advanced payment methods like PayPal and mobile payment apps provide greater security and convenience. They utilize strong encryption standards, payment protection, and biometric verification to minimize the risk of identity theft and keep your funds in your control. 

I’ve ranked the most common online payment methods for data privacy and security. Let’s see where debit cards stand.

1. PayPal – Best for Payment Data Security

PayPal is a digital wallet and one of the most popular and secure online payment methods. It’s essentially a go-between between you and the person or company you’re paying. When you make a purchase or send money to someone with PayPal, you only share your payment information with PayPal and not the recipient. 

This means even if you shop online on several websites, you only have to share your credit card or bank account details once — with PayPal. This makes online payments much safer because the less you share this sensitive information, the lower the risk of identity theft

PayPal uses advanced cybersecurity measures including end-to-end encrypted transactions and two-factor authentication to add an extra security layer to your payments. It also offers a Purchase Protection Program. If you find an issue with a product, you can qualify for a full refund, including shipping costs.


          • Low identity theft risk
          • Highly secure transactions
          • Fraud protection with Purchase Protection Program


          • Charges a fee for commercial transactions
          • Aggressive with account freezes
          • Doesn’t work in some countries

2. Mobile Payment Apps – Best for Convenience

Mobile payment apps like Google Pay, Apple Pay, Venmo, and Zelle are convenient and secure, making them an ideal solution for online payments. They work almost the same way PayPal does, however, they’re not as widely accepted. 

Mobile payment apps let you make payments online or in person directly from your mobile device. These services use biometric verification like fingerprint or face ID to authorize payments using the credit card or banking information stored on your device. 

Just like PayPal, these online payment services don’t share sensitive data with the merchant. They only share transactional data, lowering the risk of identity theft. While the technology is inherently secure, you may still come across scams on Venmo, Zelle, and other common payment apps. 


          • Biometric security
          • Low risk of identity theft
          • Best for on-the-go payments


          • Not accepted everywhere
          • Withdrawal fees (for some mobile payment apps)

3. Credit Card – Best for Fraud Protection

You’re probably aware that paying with your credit card is safer than paying with a debit card. This is primarily because credit card purchases aren’t funded directly from your bank account. Instead, the card issuer pays on your behalf and then deducts the same amount from your bank balance when the purchase is finalized. 

This makes it very easy to reverse transactions if you make a mistake or realize someone is scamming you. Since the card provider pays on your behalf, it’s their responsibility to recover funds when you cancel a purchase. On top of that, credit card encryption, CVV numbers, and two-factor authentication offer additional fraud protection. 

Credit cards do have downsides, though. You don’t get to make (semi-)anonymous transactions as you can with PayPal. You also have to share your credit card details with every website you shop on. This increases the risk of card details falling into the wrong hands. 


          • Convenient and widely accepted
          • Fraud protection
          • Easy to reverse transactions


          • Transactions are not anonymous
          • Have to share card details on every website
          • Risk of overspending

4. Debit Card – Best for Spending Control

Debit cards make online payments cheap and convenient. They’re accepted everywhere credit cards are, and work the same way. 

The only major difference is that when you make a purchase, the money is immediately deducted from your bank account. As a result, you’re limited to the funds you have in your account (unless you have an agreed overdraft).

While this helps you control spending and stay out of debt, you’re at a greater risk of losing your money permanently if a thief misuses your card details. You can sometimes recover stolen funds if you act quickly, but debit cards don’t offer as much legal protection as credit cards. 

That said, debit cards still offer pretty solid security features including 24-hour fraud monitoring services, OTP verification, and encrypted transactions. You can make debit card online payments even safer if you exercise due diligence. Ensure you’re shopping on a secure site, monitor your account for unauthorized activity, and secure your connection with CyberGhost VPN


          • Helps control spending
          • Widely accepted
          • Offers some fraud protection


          • Greater risk of losing funds permanently
          • Less legal protection than credit cards
          • Transactions are not anonymous
          • Have to share card details on every website

5. Prepaid Cards – Best for Privacy

Also known as gift cards, prepaid cards let you make anonymous online payments. You can buy prepaid cards at grocery stores without sharing personal information. They also aren’t linked to your bank account so you don’t have to worry about exposing your identity or banking data when you make a payment. 

Although they offer privacy, you can only spend what you’ve loaded onto the card. You can reload gift cards, but this makes them less convenient than debit or credit cards. 


          • High degree of privacy
          • Lowest risk of identity theft
          • Widely accepted


          • Have to visit a physical store to get one
          • Limits as to how much you can load
          • Some have hidden fees

6. Cryptocurrency Wallets – Best for Anonymous Payments

Cryptocurrency is one of the most secure payment methods out there. Blockchain technology offers a high degree of security and anonymity, minimizing identity theft risk. 

Although it’s a safe way to pay online, crypto has some significant drawbacks. For instance, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are volatile in nature. The value of the cryptocurrency you hold can drop (or increase) significantly overnight. It could even drop between the instant you make a purchase and when the network approves your transaction.

Another downside is that transactions are irreversible. If you make a payment to the wrong wallet address, you’ve got little chance of recovering your funds.

Crypto isn’t a widely accepted online payment method at the moment, but it’s gradually gaining recognition. Hundreds of websites and online services have already started accepting cryptocurrency payments and I expect this trend to gain momentum. 


          • Based on inherently secure blockchain technology 
          • High privacy
          • No international transaction or currency conversion fees


          • Not widely accepted
          • Irreversible transactions 
          • Price volatility 

How to Make Your Online Payments Safer – Checklist

Payment methods like PayPal and mobile payment apps make it safer to conduct online transactions. However, the risk is never zero. Even if you use the most secure online payment methods, you still have to do your part and practice cyber hygiene.

I’ve prepared this secure online payments checklist for you to use when making payments. Follow the steps below to make sure your money and personal information stay safe.

Infographic checklist for safe online payments.
Follow this advice for safe online payments every single time.

Final Thoughts on Safe Online Payment Methods

Online payment methods like PayPal, mobile payment apps, and credit cards are safer alternatives to debit cards. That said, no method is 100% safe unless you practice proper cyber hygiene and keep an eye out for fraudulent websites and scams. 

If you choose to pay with a debit card, you can make your online payments safer by taking the steps in the checklist above. Ensure you’re on an authentic website, monitor your account for unauthorized activity, and use CyberGhost VPN to encrypt your connection.


Which is the safest online payment option?

PayPal is the safest online payment method. You don’t have to enter your payment details on every website you shop on, reducing the risk of identity theft. PayPal also uses advanced cybersecurity measures such as two-factor authentication to keep bad actors at bay.

You can make online payments even safer with a VPN. Get CyberGhost VPN to secure your internet connection, even on public Wi-Fi. Our military-grade encryption scrambles your traffic, so cybercriminals can’t steal personal information such as your PayPal credentials.

What is the safest way to get paid online?

PayPal is the safest way to get paid online as you only have to share your email address to receive payments. Your bank details and other sensitive information remains private. 

You do have to pay a fee with PayPal if someone is paying you for goods or services. If you have trusted clients, you may prefer them to pay you directly to avoid fees. Remember to download a VPN to protect your data when accessing banking sites on public Wi-Fi.

PayPal or digital payment apps like Venmo and Zelle are all safe options to receive payments from family or friends.

Which is more secure, PayPal or debit card?

PayPal is more secure than a debit card. When you make a payment with PayPal, the seller doesn’t see your bank details or card numbers. You only share your payment data once with PayPal — not with every website you shop on. This helps prevent identity theft.

PayPal’s Purchase Protection Program also helps keep you safe from online fraud. That said, you still need to protect your traffic with a quality VPN so your PayPal credentials don’t fall into the wrong hands. Try CyberGhost VPN risk-free with our 45-day money-back guarantee and safeguard your data every time you shop online.

What is PayPal Goods and Services?

PayPal Goods and Services allows strangers to buy goods and services online without worrying about getting scammed. PayPal’s Purchase Protection Program applies to these transactions. If something you buy online doesn’t arrive or turns out to be significantly different from its description, PayPal reimburses your money. 

Regardless of what platform you use to shop online, CyberGhost VPN helps you surf privately and securely. We hide your IP address and reroute your traffic through an encrypted VPN tunnel so no one can log your shopping habits.  

Is Facebook Pay safe?

Facebook Pay uses top-tier security features to protect your payment information. That said, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, is notorious for collecting and sharing user data. To protect your payment information, you can connect your PayPal account to Facebook Pay. This means you don’t have to enter your card details directly into Facebook Pay.

Facebook Pay is an easy way to buy things on Facebook marketplace. Unfortunately, school and work networks often block social media sites. Don’t miss out on a bargain! Use CyberGhost VPN to access Facebook safely wherever you are.  

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