I regularly buy items online, and have just realised that for the past few months I have been putting in the wrong billing address for my debit card. Despite this, not one of my payments has been challenged.  

I thought the billing address was part of verifying my identity, but does it actually matter what address I put in?  

BW, via email

Shopping online is easy, but in the age of convenience many individuals are increasingly concerned about their financial security.

You might presume that, if you lost your debit or credit card, without your billing address it would be useless for online shopping.

However, this does not appear to be the case, and in reality it is left up to retailers to decide on the level of verification to enforce.

The risk of fraud is not a retailer’s only concern. They balance the risk of losses from fraud with the cost of lost sales if their verification services put people off making a purchase.

Some will place a higher level of priority on identity verification than others. This may vary depending on the cost of the item in question, device being used to make the purchase, and the customer’s history on the website.

There are also differing levels of address checking verification retailers can use, depending on how much they want to spend.

Who the liability lies with if something goes wrong can also affect how rigorously details are checked.

If the transaction uses “3-D secure”, an additional level of security, such as “Verified by Visa”, there is a liability shift to the card company. From a retailer’s perspective, if the card company is accepting the loss, then it might be less concerned about checking the billing address.

Ultimately, there is no hard and fast rule: it depends on the retailer, the payment method, the transaction size and more.

  • Have a question for our experts? Email moneyexpert@telegraph.co.uk. 

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