It’s rare for a week to pass without news of cybercrimes and data breaches. When these events happen to a company you interact with, your credit card data can be exposed, allowing scammers to charge purchases to your account.
A virtual credit or debit card can help safeguard your card data and protect it from hackers when making online purchases.
What Is a Virtual Credit Card?
A virtual credit card is a unique credit card number tied to your primary account. You can use virtual cards to make purchases without sharing your actual card information.
For example, imagine you have a credit card with the number 123456789. You could set up a virtual card with the card number 456484131 and use it when shopping online. When you checkout, the charge will show up on your account even though you never gave the store your exact card details.
You can set up virtual cards with restrictions, including making them one-time-use only, giving them low credit limits, or giving them specific expiration dates. You can also use virtual prepaid cards with a finite amount of money. These restrictions better protect you against fraud by limiting how someone could use your virtual card if they get access to its details.
Using a virtual card also means you don’t have to deal with the hassle of replacing a credit card if your details get stolen. Instead of getting a new account number and updating your payment info everywhere you use the card, you simply disable the virtual card and make a new one.
If you use a different virtual card for every vendor you work with, dealing with a data breach can take just a minute or two.
Best Virtual Credit Cards and Providers
Virtual cards have grown in popularity, and many credit card companies have started offering them as a benefit to cardholders. Some of the best virtual card providers include the following.
Dash.fi bills itself as a financial platform built for growth. One of its most powerful tools is a Mastercard charge card for online advertising.
With dash.fi, you can create an unlimited number of virtual cards that are tied to your primary account. You can assign various limits and restrictions to each, such as an expiration date or monthly spending limits.
It’s also possible to assign a card to each employee or use virtual cards to give different departments their own budgets. Locking, changing, or canceling a card can be done at any time.
Dash.fi even offers budgeting and reporting tools you can use to track spending on each card.
As a bonus, the card has no credit check or founder guarantee requirements and offers up to 3% cash back on your spending in the first two months of card ownership.
Citi Double Cash
If you want a personal credit card that offers virtual account numbers, the Citi Double Cash card is a great choice. It provides a solid 2% cash back on every purchase, including 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay it off.
You can get a virtual credit card number for the account by signing in to your Citi account portal, giving you an extra layer of security when shopping online. Plus, this credit card service has no monthly fees or other charges.
The X1 Visa card is a sleek metal credit card with virtual card capabilities.
This card has no annual fee and offers rewards points you can redeem for cash or merchandise at popular retailers. It also provides three types of virtual cards:
Standard cards: These work like any other virtual card account, and you can cancel them or set limits on them anytime.
Free trial cards: These are automatically canceled after 24 hours, letting you sign up for a free trial without worrying about a subscription charge if you forget to cancel.
Single-use cards: These deactivate after a single use, making them ideal for one-time purchases.
The card also has other security features, like instant notifications for purchases made with the account.
The Apple Card is a strong option for people who want instant access to a virtual credit card. You can apply for it from anywhere using your iPhone.
If you’re approved, Apple immediately generates three card numbers for you:
Your physical card number: Your card gets mailed and can take a few days to arrive.
An Apple Wallet card number: Apple lets you use your credit line to make in-store and online purchases at any store that accepts Apple Pay the moment you’re approved.
A virtual card number: You can use this number online or in stores where Apple Pay isn’t accepted.
If your virtual card gets compromised, you can request a new one without impacting your ability to use the physical card or Apple Wallet.
Capital One VentureOne
This credit card comes with no annual fee and a handy tool called Eno that you can use through the Capital One app or a browser extension installed on your computer.
With Eno, you can request virtual credit card numbers to use when shopping online. It can lock, unlock, delete, or add restrictions to your virtual card.
Eno is a Capital One tool, so you can use it with almost any card to get virtual account numbers. However, if you want a fee-free option from Capital One, VentureOne is likely best for your needs.
Can I Get a Virtual Card Online?
Most cards with virtual cards as a benefit have an easy online application. Some even offer instant approvals if you have strong enough credit and income. Once approved for a card, you’ll be able to create an account to access the online portal.
You can set up virtual cards through your account’s online portal. Most card issuers offer a dashboard that lets you view your virtual cards, delete them, place limits on them, or create new cards.
How Can I Get a Virtual Card Instantly?
If you want a virtual card immediately, one of the best ways is to see if you already have a physical card that also offers virtual card numbers. You should be able to request a virtual card instantly through your account portal if you have a card that offers this perk.
If you need a new credit card that offers virtual card numbers, you’ll need to find a card that provides instant approval and gives you access to the card details and account portal. One good example is the Apple Card, which you can use immediately after approval.
What Apps Give You Virtual Cards?
Many mobile apps and digital wallets use virtual card numbers.
For example, if you set up a credit card with an app like Apple Pay or Google Pay, those cards will use virtual numbers to make purchases. This ensures that your card details are never publicly broadcast when you use your phone to make a purchase in a store or use your wallet for online payments.