Why You Shouldn’t Save Your Debit or Credit Card Numbers on Store Websites or Apps

When it comes to storing credit card information online, it’s clear that American consumers prize convenience over safety. According to the results of a Bankrate poll released Thursday, 64% of the people surveyed said they save their credit card number online or on mobile apps.

The poll, which surveyed a cross section of Americans across all ages, genders, races, and geographies, was conducted online by YouGov, a public opinion and data company.

The number of people willing to save their information is surprising considering that just 8% of respondents said storing their personal data was “very safe.” Forty-four percent thought it was “somewhat safe,” with 31% ticking off “not very safe,” and 17% “not safe at all.”

In addition, the survey found that 56% save their credit or bank card information on a retailer or service provider’s website, such as Amazon, Walmart, Netflix, or Spotify, while 32% save their information in a mobile payments app, like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay.

“In the tradeoff of time and money, people are making the choice of time because it’s really about convenience,” said Paco Underhill, a market researcher and author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. “Convenience is the driving force in modern consumption. That’s why people are shopping online.”

Consumers also tend to believe that large companies are watching out for them.

“There’s a certain level of trust with whoever has asked for the information whether it’s Citibank, Kroger, or Walmart,” Underhill said. “There’s a fundamental understanding that if something is seriously wrong, somebody is going to cover it.”

The survey also highlighted offers to consumer for, say, a free trial of a product or service before being charged. Nearly six in 10 US adults, or 59% who signed up for a free trial ended up paying after the trial period ended.

“A lot of these trials are predicated on negative option marketing, so basically you’re in, unless you tell them you want to be out,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate.com. “Consumers don’t realize the 30-day free trial doesn’t end unless you actively opt out.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, victims in 14 resolved Federation Trade Commission free trials cases lost $1.3 billion and consumers making reports to BBB lost an average of $186.

Still want to experiment with a free trial? Consider a pre-paid card, Rossman suggests.

“It’s a smart way to avoid exposing your real card number and potentially get charged for something that you don’t want,” he said. “You can stay much more anonymous this way.”

Even though 56% of Americans opt to save their credit or bank card information on a retailer or service provider’s website, experts like Rossman advise against it.

“It’s not the best idea,” Rossman said. “Whether it’s the risk of getting hacked or the risk of overspending, if you can put a pause in that process that could be to your benefit.”

Research shows that people spend more when they use a card as payment as opposed to cash.

“There is actually a physical response in your brain, a pain if you will, to parting with cash,” Rossman said. “We don’t feel that as much with card or mobile payments. If you’re going to pay cash, researchers would say you’re less likely to buy.”

The survey found that 39% of U.S. adults made impulse purchases within a month prior to the survey and Millennials were the group most likely to make such impulse purchases, at 48%.

To counteract impulse buys, Rossman recommends creating some friction in the payment process.

“It’s so easy to the point of being too easy,” Rossman said. “Force yourself to go find your wallet and type out the card number, just that simple act might deter you from buying something you don’t really need.”

The survey also noted that 42% of the participants saved a debit card number on sites or apps. Not a good idea, Rossman added.

“If you’re saving debit card information and that gets hacked that’s money missing from your account. That’s a lot worse than your credit card. With a credit card, that’s zero liability and it’s not actual money that’s left your account,” Rossman said.

Furthermore, younger people were more inclined to save debit card information than any other age group. For instance, 43% of Millennial participants (ages 23 to 38) saved debit card information, compared to 41% of Generation Xers (ages 39 to 54), and 26% of Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 74).

“There’s obviously a younger generation of Americans who haven’t experienced being burned yet,” said Underhill. “The older consumers have had experience with something happening to them before. There’s been some privacy breach that affected them.”

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