Monday, February 6, 2023

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We skip the obvious “debit cards” answer.

Key points

  • Online shopping has evolved, and shoppers are adopting new ways to pay.
  • Mobile wallets, peer-to-peer checkout, and digital payment platforms offer users convenience but require users to forfeit financial or contact information.
  • Buy now, pay later offers users interest-free loans. Prepaid cards preserve shoppers’ privacy by entirely skipping credit cards and bank accounts.

Online payments have undergone a Darwinian evolution. PayPal. Cash App. Apple. One after another, payment platforms are growing the number of services they offer.

Savvy consumers are evolving, too. They are adopting new ways to pay out. In fact, digital wallets are now the most popular payment method in the world.

Shoppers have options. Possibly, too many options. Figuring out the best way to shop can be intimidating. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different ways to shop online — without whipping out a credit card.

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Mobile wallets

Mobile wallets like Apple Pay save payment information to users’ mobile devices. You can link your wallet to your credit card or bank account, and the wallet will automatically fill in that information at checkout. It’s fast, convenient, and secure.

Three popular mobile wallets:

  • Apple Pay
  • Samsung Pay
  • Google Pay

Users who shop from their phones should consider using mobile wallets. I use Apple Pay frequently, saving time normally spent entering card information. That said, it’s possible that using a mobile wallet causes me to spend more money than I would otherwise.

Peer-to-peer checkout

Some of the best payment apps are those that facilitate peer-to-peer payments. Users with active Venmo or Cash App accounts get a bonus feature: one-click checkout.

Popular peer-to-peer checkout services:

  • Pay with Venmo
  • Pay with Cash App Pay

Shopping this way is fast, easy, and doesn’t require users to enter credit card information. Users need Venmo or Cash App accounts to use this credit card alternative.

Digital payment platforms

Watch out — digital payment platforms are on the rise. They offer users credit-card-free ways to pay. Users can transfer money from their bank accounts directly into their digital payment service, then pay with that balance when shopping online.

Users can also save credit card or debit card info to their accounts. For example, Shop Pay allows users to pay with saved credit card information.

Popular digital payment platforms:

Digital payment platforms allow users to save all their financials in one easy-to-access account. Some offer alternative perks as well, like credit lines or package tracking.

Buy now, pay later

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) platforms like Klarna allow users to pay in installments. Wildly popular, about half the American population has used a BNPL platform at some point.

Popular BNPL platforms:

  • Klarna
  • Afterpay
  • PayPal Credit

Perks of BNPL services include interest-free loans and convenient checkout. These services typically integrate with websites, creating a smooth user experience for shoppers.

Users should consider holding off on making purchases they’re unsure they can repay on time. BNPL services charge late fees and command high-interest rates. A safer alternative is to put money into a savings account each week until you can pay for the purchase in full.

Prepaid cards

The convenience of shopping online without a card on hand typically requires users to set up accounts on new platforms. Users who wish to remain anonymous may consider paying with prepaid cards instead.

Prepaid cards work similarly to debit cards, but there is one key difference: Shoppers can purchase them with cash, meaning you don’t need an existing bank account to use them. Prepaid cards from Visa or Mastercard are available at most convenience stores and supermarkets.

Users should consider shopping with a prepaid card if they’d rather not put their credit card or banking details online.

Convenience vs. privacy

I prefer to maximize convenience. I shop with a mix of mobile wallets like Apple Pay and digital payment platforms like PayPal. I don’t mind setting up new accounts. However, I had to adjust my email settings to avoid unsolicited advertisements.

Users should choose what they can afford and consider what information they’re comfortable sharing online. To save extra while online, shoppers may want to research the best rewards credit cards, which come with nifty perks.

Online shopping has evolved, and users have evolved with it by adopting new payment methods.

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