Thanksgiving, Holiday Shopping, and What You Should Know

For an incredibly long time, Thanksgiving has had a meaning very different from what it’s supposed to be; it’s become a gateway for shopping. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday because it’s supposedly such a big shopping day that if a store is in the ‘red’ financially, the shopping volume that Friday shoves it into the profit zone. The Monday after that is called Cyber Monday, and the focus is on shopping from you are devices of whatever type. I read that this year it’s expected Cyber Monday will exceed the sales results of Black Friday.

I’m not writing this about the meaning of the season, or to preach that you can’t put a dollar value on love (OK, cue the jokes and snickers about money and affection). No, my purpose is to talk a little about the payment technologies being used now to try and reduce fraudulent activity and increase the speed and simplicity of legitimate purchases.

Payment technologies constantly change and evolve. Most businesses that sell products and services online utilize online payment processing. These are typically quick, and efficient. These are some of the trends in online payment processing:

1. Increased payment options including contactless payment

Most companies already accept multiple types of credit and debit cards. Some accept PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, Zelle, and so on.  Occasionally, some merchants will allow payment by eCheck, and even accept Bitcoin or other types of cryptocurrency.  Some enable access to mobile payment wallets.

According to a statistic I just read while researching this, there are more than 300 million contactless cards in the United States. These cards allow the user to basically wave the card over a mobile phone or processing device. It’s more convenient than entering a long string of numbers.  These methods all tend to be much more germ avoidant, which is especially nice in the age of COVID. Make no mistake though, cash has always been dirty.

It’s good business to accept multiple forms of payment. Sometimes customers have strong preferences for one type or another. Don’t ever feel pressured to use a payment type that you’re not comfortable with using. Also, don’t feel like you have to make public payment apps bulletin board the transactions you make using that app. If you know which app I’m referring to in particular, when you set up the transaction look towards the bottom of the screen on the right and change public to private. It’s generally not in your best interests to let anybody who looks see what you’re spending money on and who you’re sending it to – no matter how well you might know some of those people.

2. Biometric authentication

There is an increase in the number of businesses using types of biometric authentication. Biometric authentication relies on the physical characteristics of a person to verify their identity. It’s something that used to make people think of movies like Mission Impossible. Facial ID or fingerprint readers can quickly confirm that you are who you claim to be. I use it to access my smartphone and a variety of apps, including my online banking.

3.   Temporary security codes and verification

If someone gets their hands on your credit card number, they can use it to make fraudulent purchases, right? It’s happened to me several times. Fortunately, a lot of major credit card providers are implementing new forms of security. These measures include temporary security codes that serve as a secondary form of authentication. When a credit card company flags a charge as being in some way suspicious, the cardholder is texted or emailed with a request to verify the transaction, by either entering a code or a specific response.

4. Voice-based payments

I’ll admit I was surprised to learn that 35% of consumers use smart speakers to make purchases, and do it on a regular basis. Recently, I asked my Alexa device to tell me the price of a particular item. She told me what it sold for on Amazon and asked me if I wanted to purchase it. It was an impressively seamless integration of technology. It could also be a little scary if you have problems controlling impulse buying.

 5. Mobile point-of-sale devices

Online payments aren’t just for buying things online. Many of the same methods can be used for in-person purchases. Mobile point-of-sale apps and devices can make payments easier and quicker. These systems usually email or text you immediately with a purchase confirmation and receipt. I personally have done business with people using smartphones, iPads or other tablets, VeriSign, DocuSign, and other means.

6. Be on the lookout for fraud

No matter what you choose to spend your money on, don’t let yourself feel pressured into doing it in a way that makes you uncomfortable – or into spending it at all if you don’t want to. If someone is pushing you hard to make a purchase, there is a very good chance it’s in their best interest, not yours.

Other things to look out for:

  • Don’t give out your social security number, banking information, passwords, your mother’s maiden name, or any other information that could potentially be used to perpetrate a fraud against you.
  • If someone threatens you, end the conversation by hanging up if you’re on the phone and walking away if it’s in person.
  • Get a receipt for everything you spend money on.
  • Make sure you know if something can be returned, and how returns are handled by every merchant with whom you deal. Some places only offer exchanges or store credit, some have ridiculously short return timeframes, some charge a restocking fee … there’s an endless list of possible conditions and restrictions.
  • Find out what happens if the item goes on sale a day or a week after you purchased it. Do they offer adjustments at all?

Are you a Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopper? What is your preferred way to pay? Any experiences you’d like to share with me? Email me at frominhere@gmail.com and you just might find yourself receiving a little extra shopping money in next week’s newsletter.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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