Matter of convenience: Many parents find it convenient to pay school fees by credit or debit cards. Picture is for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: When you’re paying your children’s tuition online, especially if the sum is large – which in most cases are, what all do you keep in mind and are worries of transactions falling through warranted?

Given that schools in the UAE are reopening and you have to start thinking about the next upcoming tuition fee, if you were worried that paying such large hard-earned money online is risky, here is what you need to consider when going about paying these dues.

When it comes to the cost of raising a family in the UAE, one of the biggest considerations must be school fees, which take up between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of the household income. School fees in Dubai range from Dh12,723 to Dh64,093 for every school year, not including additional fees for admission, transportation, school uniforms and books.

Cash or card?

School surveys showed that over 50 per cent parents choose credit cards to pay tuition fees last year to education providers in the UAE, as parents opted for such means because they get benefits like cashback.

The trend of paying school fees with credit cards is common in the UAE as organisations are moving away from handling cash. Cash has been incredibly inconvenient to parents, who have to withdraw large amounts of cash, queue up and make a manual transaction. Paying through a credit card is easier.

Many parents can also avail discounts by paying through credit cards as individual banks offer a host of deals. Most schools have tied up with banks to offer numerous discounts as well.

It’s interesting to note that globally, only 5 per cent of payments are made in cash worldwide, while 73 per cent of purchases are made using debit, credit, eWallets, and prepaid cards.

Why security matters in online payments

Online transactions carry the small risk of thieves stealing your payment information, but you can reduce the risk of unauthorised charges by using the best payment method for each situation.

To some degree, you can rely on technology to protect you. Your financial details typically are encrypted, but even when you do everything right, there’s a chance of a data breach or intercepted traffic.

Common payments' choices online include credit cards, debit cards, or payment gateways like Telr, PayFort or CC Avenue, in the UAE. Depending on your concerns, one of those choices might be better than another.

Credit cards

Credit cards are among the best online payment options because it limits your liability in the event of fraudulent charges or mistakes. You will have zero liability if you report a card lost or stolen before it is used fraudulently or if only the numbers and not the actual card are stolen.

Additionally, many credit cards offer fraud protection and other security features. Discover, for example, allows cardholders to freeze their accounts immediately through a mobile app. When shopping for a new credit card, be sure to check out what types of security features are available.

One tip that experts offer to those who may be worried when paying large sums online is to consider keeping a designated credit card that you use only online. You can keep a closer eye on that account, and moreover, you won’t suffer the inconvenience of updating your monthly billers if you have to ditch that card number.

Even if you're not liable for charges, credit card fraud can be a hassle. If you use your credit for everyday personal or business expenses, you'll need to pay another way while waiting for a new card with a new number to arrive. As well, you'll have to update account information for any recurring bills paid with the card.

Debit cards

Debit cards offer the convenience of credit cards and sometimes have comparable liability protections, but they pull funds directly from your savings account—and that makes a big difference.

Even if your bank reimburses you for every dirham lost due to fraud or the pertinent large transaction falling through, it's still your own money that is being stolen as opposed to having a credit card maxed out by thieves.

If you simply can’t use a credit card or a payment service, a prepaid card can help insulate your savings account from any problems. With these, you load funds onto the card, and there’s no immediate withdrawal from your account.

Debit cards offer the convenience of credit cards and sometimes have comparable liability protections, but they pull funds directly from your savings account.

Third-party payment services or eWallets

Third-party payment services also are a good option for online payments. Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay are arguably among the most popular services, but others are also growing in popularity. These services can provide an extra layer of safety.

Instead of providing your credit card number or bank account information to every website where you shop, you provide it only to the payment service, which you use for online transactions. If you pay at numerous sites or sites you’re unfamiliar with, it’s wise to reduce the number of places where hackers can find your information.

Use a credit card to fund payment services whenever possible. That way, if there is a dispute and the payment service doesn’t decide in your favour, you also can dispute the charges with your credit card company where you might have better luck.

Some payment services also offer buyer protection features that reduce or eliminate your liability if your purchases never arrive or you get swindled.

Global payment security standards

The importance of keeping data safe led to the development Payments Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). PCI DSS is an important set of guidelines that apply to any entity that receives, transmits or stores sensitive card data.

The PCI DSS represents a common set of industry standards and were established and enforced by global payments brands like American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. This not only ensures your payments are secure, but comes to the rescue in the case of disputed transactions, if the transaction does not reflect in either of the accounts.

Popular steps to ensure safe online transactions

1. Use advanced anti-malware program

It will protect both classified and unclassified attacks on your computer and other digital devices you are using. Make sure your anti-malware program is updated or its auto update option is “on”. Make sure that the antivirus program is able to detect newly created and mutated malware threats even before it’s included in the database of the automatic updates.

2. Watch out for security vulnerabilities in your PC

Some of the malware programs are designed to manipulate the security vulnerabilities in the operating system (OS) and web browsers and steal your financial data. You can run System Mechanic security optimizer, which will detect and fix such vulnerabilities in both the web browser and the operating system. Always keep your web browser and operating system up to date.

3. Make sure you are using a secure connection

When you are using a secured connection the URL begins with https://, but in all other cases it begins with http://. So make sure you are using https.

4. Deal with reputed websites only

Do not directly pay to any website unless you know about it and are specifically asked to by the school. The advanced security features used in the popular payment processors listed earlier will prevent your financial information from getting into wrong hands.

5. Do not use public computers

In order to maintain security during online transactions, make sure that you’re using your own computer or mobile device. Do not use the computers installed at public libraries or internet cafes, as these computers can easily be manipulated by tweaking its hardware or software.

The importance of keeping data safe led to the development Payments Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS)

Why do online payments fail?

1. Connectivity issues

A stable internet connection is necessary for a transaction to go through successfully. If the internet speed fluctuates heavily then it could affect the transaction. Also, closing the tab or window will result in a payment failure or incomplete payment.

2. Authorisation failure

Authorisation failure takes place when payments platform cannot connect with your bank. Such cases do happen frequently. Banks, at times, do not authorize these payments and hence you will see a failure. This issue cannot be resolved by the payments platform. If your money is deducted then you can check with the bank and the platform.

3. Authentication failure

Authentication failure happens when the wrong card details are entered, OTP cannot be verified, the 3D secure password was not entered correctly.

In such cases, you receive messages from the bank that the payment could not be processed. Usually, money is not debited and you can try another transaction after a few minutes.

4. Delayed notification

Whenever you makes the transaction, you receive notifications from the bank and the payments platform and should receive an email about the success of payment. But there could be times when emails are not delivered and SMSs don’t reach the person making the transaction.

There could be several reasons why these notifications are delayed. You can wait for a few hours and if you do not receive any acknowledgement, then contact the school or the payment platform.

5. Payment gateway failure

This happens occasionally with all payment gateways. Payment gateway failure is purely an infrastructural issue. And when there are issues at the gateway level, such fixes are done by the payment platforms quickly. Your money is either debited or not debited, but it is safe.

How you can rectify the situation if fee payment fails

If you cannot resolve the issue with the school authorities, you can dispute the transaction by contacting your card issuer. However, your issuing bank may set deadlines within which your transaction may be disputed, so keep any related receipts or messages/emails handy.

To avoid any further illicit transactions on your card, you must call the bank’s call center and request them to block your credit card. When you take this issue up with your card provider, it will be examined and you should expect a resolution prior to the 90-120 day mark. The bank or card provider may issue a temporary credit for the disputed amount.

After the case is resolved and the outcome is in your favour, this credit will become permanent on your card statement. However, if the outcome is not in your favour, the bank will reverse this interim credit. The bank may even levy a processing fee if the transaction is found to be legitimate.