Is It Safe To Apply For A Credit Card Online?

May 5, 2016, Written By Jason Steele
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Have you ever wondered what is the best way to apply for a credit card? There are several ways you can do so, including applying online, over the phone, at a bank branch, and even by mailing a written application to the bank. But which one is the safest?

Comparing the safety of different application methods

When you are giving out your personal information, you should always be concerned about its potential to fall into the wrong hands, which can make you a victim of identity theft. And unfortunately, a credit card application will, by necessity, ask for all sorts of personal information, including your Social Security number, birth date, and income.

Perhaps the least secure method of transmitting this information is to do so by mail. A hand-written application could get stolen from your mailbox, delivered to the wrong location, or simply lost in the mail. In addition, having this information written down can make it easy for someone who is trying to steal it. Finally, mailing an application is the most time consuming and inconvenient way to apply for a credit card. Nevertheless, paper credit card applications are still commonly given out by airlines and by credit card issuers at airports and other events.

The second least secure method of transmitting your personal information is over the phone. When you make a phone call, someone could be listening in to either party, either over their shoulder or electronically. It’s easy for spoken information to be misunderstood and for your application to have inaccurate information. Making a phone call to apply for a credit card is also a very time consuming process, especially if you are initially placed on hold.

Like applying for a credit card over the phone, applying in person at your bank is also time consuming and potentially insecure. In this case, you are essentially completing the same process that you would over the phone, except you are driving to your bank to speak with the representative in-person. Your information could be overheard, and you are adding an additional person who is viewing your personal information.

The most secure way to apply for a credit card is to do so online. Whenever you visit a bank’s website, it uses encryption to ensure that the information being transmitted cannot be intercepted. In addition, you can increase both the speed and security of the transaction by logging into your bank’s website first, which will pre-populate the application with much of your personal information, so you don’t have to re-type your name, address, and other data that it already has on file.

Another advantage of applying online is that you have the potential to be instantly approved for your application, which may or may not be possible with telephone and in-person applications, and is impossible when you mail in an application.

But perhaps the greatest advantage of applying online is that you can gather all of the information you need to make your decision, and take your time reviewing it. Applying for a credit card is an important personal finance decision, and you should carefully review all of the terms and conditions of a credit card before applying.

Thankfully, this information is always available to online applicants in the form of the Schumer Box, the standardized table of terms and conditions required by law. Here you can find important information such as the card’s standard interest rate for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. This area will also inform you of any promotional financing offers as well as information on annual fees, late fees, balance transfer fees, and foreign transaction fees.

Other ways to protect your personal information online when applying for a credit card

Perhaps the biggest risk in applying for a credit card online is sending your information to the wrong web site. Never click on an application link that you received in an email, as you can never be sure of its authenticity. There is a type of cyber attack called phishing that involves sending out unsolicited advertisements with links to a criminal’s website. Typically, the email will appear legitimate with the right name and logo, which can easily be copied. In addition, the web site might even have a name that appears to be legitimate, but the information you input will go directly to the criminals, not to the bank whose credit card you appear to be applying for.

Another important thing to look for is a secured and encrypted web site. The URL, or web address should begin with https, not the standard http. This additional “s” at the end refers to secured sockets, the standard type of encryption used by financial institutions on the Internet. In addition, most web browsers will have some other visual indication that the information is encrypted, such as a picture of a lock.

When you compare the different ways of applying for a credit card, you will realize that doing so online is the most secure and convenient method available.



The information contained within this article was accurate as of May 5, 2016. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.