No Credit Card doesn't mean you can't shop online

First National Bank FNB Smart Devices

First National Bank FNB Smart DevicesDespite the impression on most websites that you need a credit card to shop on the Web, that is not entirely the case. In this article I present some alternatives to using a credit card.

Last time round I explained how to shop online, but my assumption were based on the fact that most e-commerce web sites require a credit card. Not to worry, though: if you’re savvy with your finances you’ll have noticed there are real alternatives to this emerging in South Africa. More and more South African sites, like, are offering alternatives like direct deposits, electronic transfers, eBucks rewards points, and various other options.

The biggest and most popular online shopping destinations offer a selection of the following different payment methods:

  • Credit Card – the universal standard for online payments accepted worldwide. Since the dawn of ecommerce in the mid 1990s credit cards have ruled supreme. VISA and MasterCard have been great beneficiaries due to their worldwide recognition and trust.
  • Bank Deposits / Electronic Funds Transfers (EFT) – there is growing acceptance of this method due to the growing popularity of Internet banking in South Africa.
  • eBucks – the First National Bank-originated rewards program has picked up a lot of loyal users since its launch a few years ago and you can use it at a selection of online merchants as a method of payment. Includes the likes of CNA as rewards partners.
  • Standard Bank AutoPay – this is open to Standard Bank clients for direct payments to selected online retailers from their personal bank accounts.
  • ABSA Online Payment – a security measure which has become a popular choice among consumers as you never have to send your REAL credit card over the Internet again. This system generates a unique credit card-16 digit number which can be used instead of your own credit card number. The major benefit here is that debit card holders can also use this payment method. I’m not sure if this is still on offer because I could not find references to it on ABSA’s website at the time of posting.
  • Thirt – an escrow service which accepts payment from the buyer and passes it on to the seller only after the buyer is satisfied with the goods.
  • Debit Cards / Cheque Cards – the fastest emerging payment system, with funds loaded into the card and spent according to what is available.

One of the best payment methods available in 45 countries world wide, excluding South Africa, is the Paypal system. Paypal uses e-mail to send and receive payments electronically. The simplicity of this system, combined with a cash incentive when it was launched, caused an explosive growth in Paypal users. The majority have always been eBay users, and it did not take long before eBay decided to buy Paypal. Right now South Africans can only send money with Paypal and not receive money.

For South Africans shopping at international websites a credit card is still a must. Until there is an alternative, perhaps from Google or that allows South Africans a different way to make payments and receive payments the potential for local online retail stores will be limited.

So you really don’t have to use a credit card. There are some alternatives and they are all very secure. The number of debit cards is also growing and, with smart card technology they will offer the same kind of functionality that credit cards offer users today. In face I would recommend you get a “cheque card” that is being offered by First National Bank, Nedbank, Standard Bank and ABSA because they offer an actual VISA/Mastercard credit card number linked with your cheque account. When you use it as you would a credit card the money is deducted from your cheque account instead of the credit/loan which where you would pay interest.

Using these “cheque cards” is a major step forward in enhancing your ability to shop in a cashless environment. For me it’s allowed me to regulate my spending and also to carry less cards in my pocket. So if you have a problem keeping your credit card balances in check, excuse the pun, this pay just be the way to go.


Author: RJ Thomas

RJ Thomas is an International Relationship Builder. He was born in South Africa, and moved to China in 2013.

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    • Ingrid

      I would not use Absa credit card to pay a seller on Paypal again. Absa CC will not help you if you receive the wrong item.

  • I am currently developing websites for various clients and some want credit card payment solutions on their websites – clients must be able to buy online from their websites and i am looking for a solution

  • vanessa

    Hi – in your article you spoke about the ABSA online payment option. I want to use it for my kalahari orders (debit, not credit) but there are so many options and they don’t have any information on which is the correct method to pick. Can you help?

  • Vanessa I cannot confirm it since I have left the employment of ABSA back in 2002. However, based on some quick research on the Internet it seems like ABSA Online Payments system has been discontinued.

    The best option to avoid using credit cards is to use the electronic funds transfer (EFT) option. And you can also consider using the awesome Cheque Cards available from FNB, Nedbank and the other banks.

  • FNB Business Cheque Cards do NOT work for internet transactions. I applied for one just for this purpose, it turned out to be a waste of time because FNB do not support this.

  • Richard I disagree. I have used FNB Business Cheque Cards since they have been released. They work exactly the same as a normal credit card.

  • julie

    can i use my standard bank cheque card on paypal? i have just applied for a cheque card.

  • Fred

    I’m amazed at the hoops one must jump to shop online in Africa. I registered on Paypal and verified a Visa credit card issued on a Kenyan bank to a Nairobi address. (Sites like only accept cards issued by US banks. So much for worldwide trust.) That works: I can send funds to Paypal and on to any merchant. I then got a US address they can deliver to from Borderlinx/DHL. (Most such sites don’t ship outside the continental US so this is a promising solution). Trouble is, when I try paying Dell with Paypal, they get jumpy about the Africa address! I know Africa has a reputation for credit card fraud, but really!

  • Josh

    Well, there’s also Secure Instant Deposit (SID) which is offered by a company by the name of Setcom. You can read about it on . They basically guarantee EFT payments to merchants who sign up with them. Right now they have things like airlines and casinos, but soon I reckon they’ll have some of the retailers. I think people just need to push the need for companies doing things like this so that we don’t have to suffer if we don’t have cheque or credit cards.

  • Mahlatse

    I’m Mahlatse .Don’t have a credit card and need to make payments online.The only thing I have is debit card from standard bank(savings account)what are my options.

    • You can register with Paypal and link your bank account with them to make ecommerce payments.

  • colin

    Im afraid that wont work Mahlatse. For paypal verification they need a credit or cheque card.

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