| 9 min read

Virtual Card Issuing API: What, How, & Why

If virtual credit cards and debit cards have piqued your interest, it is a good idea to understand how they work. For those who want to look below the surface, the card issuing API is perhaps one of the most important aspects to understand as it is the key to the way virtual cards are generated and managed. 

What Is A Card Issuing API?

Virtual cards are card numbers generated instantly, through an online interface or mobile app. Purchases are then charged to an underlying credit card, debit card or bank account. Users create them for limited uses. 

API stands for application programming interface. The API is what allows the issuer (and ultimately the user) to generate virtual card numbers instantly in real-time and then manage those cards. This API is tied to either the original credit card, a bank account, debit card, or prepaid card from which funds will be debited. The purchase must ultimately be processed through a card network and the API ties it to the specific account to ensure purchases are charged to the correct source. 

What Is The Purpose Of A Card Issuing API?

Card issuing APIs allow card issuers to generate and manage virtual cards. As a user, why would you even want to generate virtual cards? 

The use of virtual cards is growing, and there are many use cases that drive individuals and businesses to choose virtual cards over physical cards. The main benefits of virtual cards include the fact that they are:

  • Flexible: create numbers for single use purposes, or specific merchants;

  • More secure: never reveal the underlying card or account number;

  • Best for budgeting: set spending limits and/or use for subscriptions so they aren’t overbilled;

  • Great for employees or contractors: easy and safer to use for employee or contractor expense management.

While virtual cards are similar in many ways to physical cards, they do have differences. The bank, credit card issuer, or third party provider you use to generate virtual cards is going to determine not only how customizable your cards are, but also what limitations are placed on the cards. This is why it is important to make sure you choose a card issuer or payment solution that offers the features you want. 

Consider how many virtual cards you will need to generate each month, when and where purchases will need to be made. Do you want to put spending controls on cards or set specific limits? Are you planning on using a bank account, credit card or debit card to your virtual card? (Generally credit cards are the safest way to pay for purchases. Even if they are used fraudulently, the money hasn’t been taken out of your bank account. Plus you can dispute purchases.) 

These considerations can be very helpful when determining where you want to get your virtual credit card

If you’re a small business owner or digital marketer looking for a virtual credit card, consider dash.fi. You’ll be able to create unlimited virtual cards instantly for specific merchants, or assign to employees, your ad agency or contractors. Virtual cards are free with dash.fi. 

How To Use A Card Issuing API

The API interface works behind the scenes, and will integrate with the website of the issuer or service offering virtual cards. Though it may look different across platforms, main steps to creating a virtual card will usually be similar. 

Once you’ve been approved for a credit card, you will login into your account (either online or through a mobile app) and go to the place indicated for creating virtual cards. You may need to download an app specifically for creating virtual credit card numbers. 

You’ll generate a 16-digit number you can use for your purchase. From there you may need to decide if you are going to create a card number for a specific merchant. You may also get to choose when the card expires, or pick one-time use. (You will need an expiration date to enter when you make your online purchase so make sure you note it.)

Card issuance platforms may require additional steps such as assigning the card to a particular cardholder, selecting the currency to be used, email, phone number, activation of the card, etc. 

Note that if you are a business that wants to create a credit card program for your customers (for example, a retailer that wants to issue a private label credit card) and you want to offer virtual cards, you’ll need to find and implement a card issuing API platform that includes the ability to generate these numbers. 


How Can I Get A Virtual Card Instantly?

Getting a virtual card is not complicated as long as your bank supports it or you can find the right service. Once you are approved, you can create your virtual card from the issuer’s mobile app or website. 

Currently, fintech companies are more likely to offer virtual cards, rather than traditional card issuers. (Major card issuers have focused their efforts on digital wallets which allow cardholders to save and use their cards from Google Pay or Apple Pay.) 

That said, some issuers will allow you to access your credit card number through your mobile app even before you receive the physical card. This isn’t a true virtual card number; it’s just a faster way to access your credit card account number while you wait for the plastic card to arrive in the mail. Chase is an example of an issuer that offers instant access to the card number through the Chase Mobile App once you are approved. However, it only offers it for consumer cards, and doesn’t offer it for small business credit cards. 

What Are The Benefits Of A Card Issuing API?

As a user, a card-issuing API allows you to quickly generate either a virtual debit or credit card number for yourself or for employees or contractors, and then manage these cards. With a virtual card, you get the functionality of a regular card number that can be used the same places Visa or MasterCards can be used (usually online). You’ll also get the additional benefits of a virtual card such as extra security. Virtual cards are currently used primarily for online purchases, or for payments via invoice. Still, they tend to be more configurable than regular credit cards.

What Is A Card Issuing API?

A card issuing API allows issuers to offer customers the ability to generate and manage virtual cards. An API is an application programming interface that allows users to generate a new card number for limited use. These cards often have a set of customizable features built in that you can adjust for each card you generate. However, the main purpose of the API is to create unique cards the cardholder or others they authorize can use to make purchases. 

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