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How to safely shop online this holiday season

5 min read

Safe Holiday Online Shopping

Written By

Gaby Pilson
Gaby Pilson

Rounding it up

  • If you, like many, will be online shopping to check off your holiday shopping list, make sure to protect your privacy, data, and money by following these tips.

  • Use a prepaid credit card so you can control the amount of money scammers can exploit. Extra points if it’s a virtual card — that will add another layer of protection.

  • Be wary of unfamiliar and suspicious retailers. Those Instagram click-through ads may be tempting, but they’re also risky.

  • Be wise about your WiFi — choose your home or password-protected networks.

  • Regularly monitor your credit card activity so you can report and settle disputed charges as soon as possible.

Temperatures are dropping, snow is falling, and the holiday spirit is in the air.

That means it’s time to start working your way through your gift list so you can avoid that dreaded last-minute shopping rush this holiday season.

Especially given the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are relying on online shopping for the holidays. Although shopping online has many benefits, there are some important points to keep in mind when it comes to protecting your privacy, data, and especially your money from common holiday scams.

In order to stay safe while shopping online during the holidays, you need to be prepared. Thankfully, your KOHO account comes with everything you need to fend off those cyber-Scrooges this winter.

Here are some top tips for doing just that.

1. Use a prepaid Mastercard® for holiday spending

If you have a KOHO account, you’re already set up for success this holiday season. In fact, your KOHO prepaid Mastercard is an excellent tool for staying safe while shopping online.

That’s because your card comes with Mastercard’s Zero Liability Policy, so the fine folks over at Mastercard will help take care of any fraudulent charges that get added to your account.

While you could use a credit or a debit card instead, using a prepaid Mastercard for online spending has a number of benefits over using a traditional debit or credit card.

One of the key benefits of a prepaid card over a debit card is that you can control the amount of money you put on your card at any one time. Although you’ll be reimbursed for any fraudulent charges on your card under Mastercard’s policy, being able to control the amount of money on your card at any given time prevents scammers from spending a princely sum on your dime.

Additionally, your KOHO prepaid Mastercard isn’t connected to your credit score. As a result, in the event someone does use your card for unauthorized purchases, there won’t be any negative impact to your credit rating while you dispute the charge.

"One of the key benefits of a prepaid card over a debit card is that you can control the amount of money you put on your card at any one time."

2. Shop with a Virtual Card

Your KOHO prepaid Mastercard also comes with another key benefit for online shoppers: a Virtual Card.

A Virtual Card is basically a digital version of your regular card which allows you to shop online with an extra layer of protection. You can access your Virtual Card in your KOHO app or you can link it to Apple or Samsung Pay for added convenience while shopping.

With your Virtual Card, you receive a unique card number separate from your physical card number. This adds an extra level of security by not providing merchants and payment processors with your primary card number, but instead a different card number to use exclusively for online purchases. We recommend always using your Virtual Card when online shopping to protect your funds from fraudsters looking to grinch you out of your money. That means greater security and lower risk if your favourite retailer gets hacked this holiday season.

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3. Be suspicious of unfamiliar online retailers

Although it might be tempting to buy that super cute stocking stuffer off of an Instagram click-through ad, shopping from unfamiliar online retailers is a sure-fire way to expose yourself to scammers and identity theft.

It’s best to only buy from trusted retailers with a track record of good customer service when shopping online. Since literally anyone can set up a fairly decent online website in just a few days, purchasing from an unfamiliar retailer can be quite risky.

This doesn’t mean that you can only shop with major national box stores and chain retailers. By all means, please support your local small businesses.

Before you fork over your card details, however, do a bit of investigating to see if you’re purchasing from a reputable company. Check online reviews, see if the company has a social media presence, and do a quick web search to see if the address listed on their website is real.

You’ll also want to look at the URL itself and make sure it begins with ‘https://’ — the ‘s’ stands for secure. These are key to ensuring digital safety, because they mean the information you provide is encrypted.

If you’re looking for fun new gift ideas from companies you maybe haven’t shopped with before, check out the current selection of KOHO cash back partners. Taking advantage of our merchant partners earns you extra cash back and provides you with the confidence you need that you’re purchasing from a reputable retailer this winter.

"It’s best to only buy from trusted retailers with a track record of good customer service when shopping online."

4. Choose your WiFi networks wisely

Many of us know not to recklessly give out our personal information and to avoid opening files on suspicious emails. But, few people realize that using public WiFi networks can be just as risky as getting duped by some phone scammer claiming to be your long-lost bankrupt uncle.

The free WiFi network at your favourite coffee shop isn’t as safe as you might think. With a little bit of tech skills, anyone can monitor your internet activity over an unsecured network, giving them access to all your data and even your payment information.

That’s why it’s best to avoid shopping online unless you’re at home or connected to a password-protected network.

If you do need to shop online on a public network, consider connecting to a VPN which can encrypt and protect your payment information. Alternatively, use an extra-robust payment option, like your Virtual Card, to stop scammers from accessing your primary card number.

5. Monitor your card activity

Unfortunately, even the most astute of online shoppers can fall victim to skilled scammers. Since any charges on your KOHO prepaid Mastercard are protected under Mastercard’s Zero Liability Policy, you can rest easy knowing that you won’t be on the hook for any fraudulent charges.

With that in mind, it’s critical that you check your card activity regularly so you can report and settle disputed charges as soon as possible.

Throughout the holiday season, be sure to check your card balance and activity in the KOHO app on a weekly basis. Scan your transaction history for any funny-looking charges, and if you happen to find one, lock your account instantly within the app before contacting our support team to start the dispute process.

Shop smart, shop safe

The holiday season is a fantastic time of year to celebrate and connect with friends and loved ones. Whether it’s via gifts or (virtual) hugs, we hope you get to connect with those most important to you this year.

And if you’re among the many who will rely on shopping online for gifts this holiday season, please make sure to keep an eye out for your personal and payment information. That way, you'll have one less thing to worry about this holiday season!

Note: KOHO product information and/or features may have been updated since this blog post was published. Please refer to our KOHO Plans page for our most up to date account information!

Gaby Pilson

Gaby Pilson is a writer, educator, travel guide, and lover of all things personal finance. She’s passionate about helping people feel empowered to take control of their financial lives by making investing, budgeting, and money-saving resources accessible to everyone.



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