Virtual Credit Cards
A virtual credit card is a unique credit card number that is linked to your main credit card account but is different from the physical card number. The virtual credit card number allows to shop online or over the phone without using your physical credit card. The numbers can usually be used once and expire if not used. The cardholders can also delete the numbers if they want or need to.
Why Would You Need a Virtual Card?
There is a great advantage of using virtual credit cards for online shopping. They help you to protect yourself from fraud. Since the virtual card numbers cannot be traced back to your credit card account, thieves won’t be able to steal information about your original account. Also, virtual card numbers expire or can be deleted. In case of a data breach or theft, you can simply delete or lock the virtual card number and fraudsters won’t be able to use it. All that enhances your online shopping security.
Who Offers Virtual Cards?
Currently there are only three major credit card issuers that offer virtual card: Citi, Capital One, and Bank of America.
Citi allows to generate virtual account numbers that can be used when shopping online. The numbers can only be used for online or mobile transactions. All virtual card numbers used to make purchases will appear on the cardholder’s statement.
Capital One offers a service called Eno, which is basically an assistant that can help manage Capital One accounts online or through their app. This service allows to create virtual card numbers instantly through a special web browser extension, which is available for Chrome, Firefox and Edge.
Bank of America has ShopSafe® service. This tool is absolutely free but available to cardholders only. Like with other services, it allows to generate a temporary credit card number and use it for online shopping. The service allows to set valid through date and spending limit. When the number is no longer needed, it can be simply deleted from ShopSafe.
What are disadvantages?
While virtual credit cards are created to protect you from fraud, they do not have any additional protections. So, if there’s a data breach, you’d be better deleting your account to avoid fraud. Another drawback is that the numbers can only be used for online shopping. They cannot be used at any physical store.
Since virtual cards are only good for a short period of time, it makes them inconvenient when you need to return a purchased item. Plus, if you have subscriptions, you will need to renew the number if you still want to be subscribed for a service.
However, those drawbacks do not make virtual credit cards less attractive or useful. They are still worth using for those who want to feel protected online.
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