typingBooking flights, hotel reservations, and other travel arrangements online is generally a safe procedure. While most of the major booking websites, like Kayak and Orbitz take care to encrypt your credit card and other personal information when you book, there are a number of ways your credit card number can be misused after you click ‘Ok’.

Fortunately, using a number of free services and some ingenuity you can protect your personal information and keep your credit card number safe – without even giving it away when making online travel arrangements.

First, the Basics

Before you read further, if you’re not familiar with some basic online security tips, I’ve written some posts in the past to help you get started to browsing and booking safely online.

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3 Simple Steps

Now that you’re caught up with the basics, here are 3 simple ways to protect your credit card when booking that next flight.

1. Use A One-Time Credit Card Number – Most times your credit card number is safest online. It’s when that number gets sent to hotel staff, travel agents, or other agencies that it’s handled inappropriately – like being written down, as Darren notes . Many credit card companies, and Paypal, offer one-time-use credit card numbers that are only valid for a single online transaction and protect you from fraud. Give them a call to find out if the option is available to you or switch to bank that offers it.

  • Here are some links to more information about one-time credit card number offerings.

security key2. Type The Address In Yourself – Don’t follow links from emails (no matter who sent them to you) or other websites to book anything online. While the site providing the links may be trustworthy, you can’t really be sure if it’s been hacked and the owner doesn’t know about it. Typing in the www.site.com address protects you from malicious links.

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3. Get A Paypal Security Key – For $5 you can security key from Paypal that generates a random number which you need in addition to your password to make an online transaction. I won’t go into technical details, but this setup is extremely difficult to crack and will go a long way in securing you credentials and important information.

The human element is the weakest in any security process online so to mitigate the risks its best to keep your important account numbers private as much as you can. This includes carrying an unactivated credit card when traveling abroad and using a temporary email account for protection against keystroke loggers.

Most credit card companies and banks provide protection in case of fraud but how safe do you feel buying tickets and booking reservations online?

[photo by: José Goulão]