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Consumers Want Easier Online Payments

This article was written by in Consumer. 9 comments.


Yes, it’s frustrating to need to reach for my wallet and type in my credit card number every time I want to complete a purchase online. According to a recent MasterCard and Harris Interactive survey, 58 percent of consumers agree with me. Consumers even abandon their online shopping carts when the check-out process requires too much effort.

That might be good news for consumers. If a small barrier is all it takes to prevent someone from making a purchase, perhaps that purchase was not a necessity. Leaving more money in the bank rather than spending that money on some product that does not drive enough desire to get through a relatively painless process can only be beneficial to the shopper’s financial condition. Retailers, on the other hand, will obviously see consumers’ lack of purchase consummation as a problem, directly affecting sales and revenue.

The solution is to store the details pertaining to your payment method so it can be automatically retrieved at the point of sale. Amazon.com is certainly a pioneer with this approach. This company’s one-click purchasing process using stored credit card or debit card information makes buying a smooth process, although it created an uprising about patents when this feature was introduced many years ago.

PayPal has a good solution as well. Stores that allow payments through PayPal enable users to associate a credit card and avoid the need to type in a credit or debit card number each time.

Consumers can also use browser add-ons or downloadable programs, like LastPass, to store credit card information retrievable with a click or two.

Purchasing items online is much safer and more secure than being out in the world, carrying a wallet with all your credit cards and cash, and handing your credit cards to a waiter or gas station attendant who disappears for several minutes. Online security, as long as you confirm you are visiting a secure website, is trustworthy. No one is going to intercept my secure internet connection when I’m buying something online, and for the most part, I trust companies not to expose a database of credit card numbers to the public. That exposure is just as likely to happen when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores as when shopping online. The situation is unlikely, and shopping online does not add to that risk.

There is no universal solution, a one-click purchasing experience like that on Amazon.com, available to all retail websites. But there is also no equivalent to the one-click purchasing experience when you shop in store locations, either. Swiping a payment card or transmitting a secure wireless signal from your mobile phone gets close to the experience, but you still need to take out your wallet or your phone.

While retailers want to make it easier for consumers to pay money, consumers should be careful about making this process to automatic. Trading money for an object of some type should involve at least some opportunity to stop and consider the purchase. Technology makes it incredibly easy for consumers to part with their cash or increase their debt burden, and retailers want to make it easier. Consumers should be working against that trend and moving in the opposite direction.

If not, retailers will soon be able to simply reach into consumers’ pockets and take that money. Some companies offer free trial periods for their products and services without making it blatantly obvious that customers will be charged at the end of the trial period. Some create significant barriers to canceling the service in advance of the ending of the trial period. Consumer groups often criticize these policies, and some might be considered scams. If consumers make it increasingly easy to give up money without thought, then we’re just as much to blame.

Photo: Håkan Dahlström
BusinessWire

Published or updated May 7, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar tom

People are so damn lazy. Is it really a pain to type in 16 numbers? Heck, Chrome now stores and fills in your address and phone number.

Preventing people from 1-clicking their way into debt is a good thing.

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avatar Shawanda

I’m one of those people who hates to fish my credit card out of my wallet. The way I deal with this annoyance is to memorize my credit card number. The only time I get annoyed now is when a merchant doesn’t accept American Express. Then, I gotta reach for my Visa. *sigh*

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avatar qixx ♦1,813 (Half-Dollar)

I shop online often enough that i ended up memorizing my card number, expiration date, and security code. It was not something i tried to do. I just realized one day that i knew all the info from my card.

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avatar Christian L.

Flexo,
I didn’t realize online checkouts bothered consumers so much. I’m slightly uncomfortable letting Amazon and PayPal store my addresses and card info.

Not that I wholeheartedly disagree with the assertion that it’s just as safe to use cards online as it is in person, but is there a study or any research to affirm this? I’m not even sure how it can be proven. Nevertheless, I want to know if you found some hard numbers.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,365 (Platinum)

I don’t have hard numbers on that offhand. Whether you use a credit card online or not, the transaction is processed through the same networks once it gets to the retailer, so that aspect of the transaction is basically identical. With online payments, as long as you’re on a secure site, all of your information is encrypted. When you hand your card to someone, there’s no encryption, and they can very easily scan your card and save the information for their own purposes. Not to mention gas attendants and restaurant workers often take the card out of sight. This is a much bigger security risk than typing your credit card number on a secure online form from an established retailer. I don’t think a study is necessary to prove that, though I suppose it would make people who might not be familiar with technology feel better. There is a risk of someone throwing up a website to tick an unsuspecting public into entering credit card information on an insecure website, but that’s why it’s worthwhile to be educated about how to use your credit card online and how to avoid clicking spam links in emails.

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avatar Christian L.

That’s fair. I don’t think you need numbers either, but I was curious if I had missed what would be some great research.

I think everybody should feel uncomfortable letting their card out of sight. Sadly, cards are becoming the norm.

Flexo, thanks for this thorough response. I appreciate it (and sorry my comment got posted twice).

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avatar Ceecee ♦796 (Dime)

It’s not much of a task compared to getting in the car and going to the mall, parking, shopping, and driving back home. Really, how lazy can we get? Online shopping is such a great time saver, I don’t mind entering a few digits.

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avatar Eric

I have Lastpass save my cards so I can just do a quick “fill form” with the card I want to use. It only takes a couple of minutes to set up if you have Lastpass and only a few seconds to pull up a card number when I need it.

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avatar Mike Collins

We’re better off having to do a little work to spend our money because when you take away the pain you’ll spend a lot more. It’s a lot easier to spend with a debit card because you don’t “feel” it the way you do when spending cash.

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