The Essential Guide to Anonymous Payment Methods in 2021
Maintaining privacy while buying online is crucial for consumers today, and anonymous payment methods make it possible.
Some ways of anonymously paying for goods can be transferred from the online to the offline world to keep a consistent measure of privacy. Others can only be done when shopping online, which is what this article will cover.
When you buy something online, you often have to hand over personal information, like your name, address, email address, and credit card number. As such, it’s easy for recipients to get hold of your data and compromise your privacy. In order to want to avoid this, we recommend using an anonymous payment option.
Here is a quick overview of the best options:
How Private Do You Want Your Online Transactions To Be?
Once upon a time, if you wanted to make anonymous payments, you’d use cash, and, even now, this remains one of the best anonymous payment methods. The trouble is, you can only use a physical currency in a face-to-face situation so, if you want complete anonymity when making an online transaction, you need an alternative.
While those payment services and methods, like prepaid cards and PayPal, that offer partial anonymity are safe enough for most online shopping experiences and subscriptions, they may still reveal some personal information, like your email address, for example.
If you want to be completely invisible online and leave no digital footprint of your transaction, partial anonymity isn’t enough. Instead, you need to find an alternative payment method that’s as anonymous as cash. These aren’t particularly easy to unearth, and there are just two completely anonymous payment methods available to you, other than cash.
Anonymous Prepaid Cards
With a little care and attention to detail, you can create a completely anonymous prepaid card. To do this, you need to follow these three rules:
- Buy the card with cash so you won’t be required to show any identification
- Use a temporary disposable email service, like Burner Mail, to register the card that way, you won’t have to reveal your real name, phone number, or email address
- Avoid cards that offer an online recharge option, as these will require a bank account which will smash your anonymity to pieces
Designed primarily for online gambling and gaming transactions, Paysafecard is a “closed-loop gift card” that requires neither a credit card nor a bank account. If you pay for your card in cash, this is one of the most failsafe anonymous payment methods around.
You can buy a Paysafecard for as little as $10 or as much as $100, or you can link cards together to make larger purchases. Each Paysafecard voucher has a 16-digit PIN which you use to make your anonymous online payments.
Although this service isn’t as widely available as, say, PayPal, it’s constantly growing in popularity and expanding its international availability.
Safest Anonymous Payment Methods
There are a number of different anonymous payment options that each come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The key is to choose a method that works for you and your online spending habits. Take into consideration the anonymity of each and decide which suits you best.
Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are popular ways to anonymously pay online. They work by validating tokens that have a monetary value. You can’t touch them, but you can use them to pay for a large majority of goods and services online. Over the past couple of years, they’ve become a popular way to maintain privacy while shopping online.
To purchase cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and other popular varieties, like Ethereum, you have to get them through crypto exchanges. The downside is you often have to register your private information to exchange the cryptocurrencies, which can defeat the whole point of anonymous payments.
It’s worth noting that all Bitcoin transactions are completely transparent and traceable – that’s the whole purpose of them. This means that Bitcoin addresses can be linked together and tied to the same user if you use several different anonymous accounts.
The key to choosing the right anonymous cryptocurrency is defining what it is you’re looking for in a service and researching which offering has those features.
Downside: Cryptocurrencies are susceptible to dramatic market fluctuations and are not widely accepted.
There are a number of credit card companies and banks that offer a masking service. This means you can carry out transactions with your real credit card or real bank account without the personal details of your account being revealed.
You can make anonymous payments with funds from your actual credit card account which makes it an incredibly easy way to keep your privacy online. In the event of a data breach, your account is protected and you can simply close the virtual account if you do feel it has been compromised in some way.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that while banks and credit cards offer a masking service, you do need to hand over your personal information to retailers when you buy goods online.
There are a handful of masked card companies, like Abine, that do a more complete job at hiding your information and your identity every single time you use your card. Its Blur feature lets you make instant virtual burner cards and has add-ons like tracker blocking and the ability to mask your email.
Abine allows you to get cards under a fictitious name and make payments using them online. The way it’s set up also means you’re never automatically charged without your prior approval.
Masked cards are best used for easy purchases that don’t cost more than $500 and that don’t require recurring payments, like monthly installments such as phone bills or gym memberships.
Downside: Some banks and credit cards require you to hand over personal details to sign up so, it’s not completely anonymous.
The majority of major banks offer prepaid debit cards which offer an anonymous way to pay online. They work by adding money to the card before you spend it which means your personal details aren’t needed for transactions since the money is taken straight away.
In order to use a prepaid credit card for online payments, you have to register the card with a website. You can do this in the same way that prepaid gift cards are used, which means you can stay relatively anonymous. The upside is you can also use prepaid debit cards for offline purchases to stay consistent in all your transactions.
Prepaid cards are really easy to get hold of; you can pick them up from supermarkets and drugstores. All you have to do is pay with cash and the card is yours. You can also get prepaid cards online, but to do this you have to hand over your data to the company you’re getting it from.
Don’t confuse a prepaid card with a card that can be reloaded with money, as you’ll need actual credit and an SSN to activate them. Obviously, this means your transactions won’t be anonymous, but they also have quite high transaction fees to contend with.
While it’s very simple to get a prepaid card and start using it, bear in mind that there’s usually a minimum limit of $20. And, when buying online, you often have to sign up with your name, email address, and home addresses, which completely eradicates the whole anonymous aspect.
Downside: Personal information is required to sign up.
Anonymous Payment Apps
Anonymous payment apps like Venmo and Cash App allow you to make semi-anonymous transactions online. They can be a very flexible payment option, but they come with some limitations which vary for each individual app.
The good thing about these types of apps is that they’re widely available across the internet and can be used for many different kinds of online transactions as well as transferring money to other people.
Downside: It may be linked to your device, compromising your anonymity.
PayPal wasn’t initially created for anonymous payments, but it allows you to set up an account in a way that keeps your personal information under wraps.
A VPN hides your real IP address so your information isn’t available to recipients, but you can also link your account to a prepaid debit card to bolster the anonymity around transactions. We recommend using ExpressVPN.
You can only set up and use a PayPal account through the website, and to do so, you have to register a card or bank account to push money through.
However, the recipient will only see your registered name and email address when you make a payment via this method. This means you can register your account with a throwaway email address and add funds with a virtual credit card to make anonymous payments.
It can be a bit of a long-winded process, but PayPal is widely accepted, so it makes it an easy anonymous payment option for the majority of online transactions.
Downside: PayPal is a popular target of phishing scams.
This international money transfer service and virtual wallet can be completely anonymous if used in conjunction with Paysafecash – a service that allows you to pay online with cash. Although Skrill is a well-established anonymous payment method that offers competitive exchange rates and fees, it’s not without controversies.
Downside: users have complained about funds being frozen and poor customer service.
This anonymous payment app is relatively new but widely accepted. You can use it to store your credit cards, subway passes, pay for parking, and order from restaurants.
Google Pay uses a technology known as tokenization, which creates a new virtual account number every time you perform a transaction. As your actual credit card isn’t even stored on your phone, let alone shared with the merchant, it provides a completely anonymous payment method if used correctly.
While basically unhackable, experts recommend enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) and exercising caution when making app purchases and changing permissions.
Downside: Although Google Pay is accepted by over 3,000 different financial institutions, it’s not yet universal and is only available for Android devices.
For iPhone users, this is the best anonymous payment app and the leading alternative to Google Pay. Although the set-up process is somewhat more complicated than Google Pay’s, once complete, the app is fast and easy to use.
Like Google Pay, Apple Cash uses near-field communication (NFC) technology and tokenization to perform its transactions, making it both secure and anonymous.
It works in conjunction with your Messages app, streamlining both payments and payment requests. You can also use Apple Cash to control your children’s spending.
Downside: The biggest issue with this anonymous payment method is that it’s not completely anonymous. Your Apple services are linked to your device, making them only semi-anonymous. The service is also limited to iPhone and iPad users.
Security Tip: Use a strong password and 2FA.
Conclusion: Why Choose Anonymous Payment Methods
Anonymous payment methods will keep your identity safe and secure online. If you’re wary about handing over personal information like your name, email address, postal address, and credit card number, you’ll benefit from one of the payment options we’ve discussed here.
Each comes with its own set of pros and cons, so consider each option before choosing one that best suits your own online shopping habits.