If you’ve ever had your credit card lost or stolen, you know what a hassle it can be to get a new card number and update it with all the different places you pay bills online. Perhaps you’ve hesitated before entering your card number for an online purchase, realizing that once you’ve shared your card number it could be misused. Or maybe a single card number isn’t a good fit for your business and you’d like different card numbers for specific purchases.
That’s where virtual credit cards can come in. They offer card numbers that can be used for specific purchases without sharing your primary card details, making them more flexible and less vulnerable to fraud.
And they also offer other benefits uniquely valuable to online marketers who need to ensure they can use their cards to pay for ads without interruption.
Here’s how they work, and where to get them.
What Is An Instant Virtual Credit Card?
An instant virtual credit card is a credit card number that can be used temporarily or for specific purchases. It’s tied to a credit card account, debit card or bank account that will be charged for the purchase. You may also hear these referred to as disposable cards.
Typically it works like this. Once you are approved for a credit card, you can access an online interface or use a mobile app to generate virtual card numbers. You may generate a single-use card number that can be used for just one transaction, or a multi-use card number that can be used more than once, usually with a specific merchant. You may also set up spending limits and expiration dates.
For example, you may create a virtual card number to use for online ads on a specific platform and set a cap on how much can be charged each month.
If there is an attempted charge with a different merchant using that number, or if the merchant tries to charge more than an authorized amount, the purchase will be declined. If you decide you no longer want to do business with that merchant, you can terminate the number so no more charges go through.
Virtual credit card numbers are typically used for online shopping, but may be available for some offline (retail) purchases if there is a compatible payment method enabled with the merchant.
Virtual credit card numbers offer a number of benefits:
Protect your credit card information by using virtual credit card numbers for specific purchases. If there is a data breach involving a virtual card number, the stolen number will likely be useless.
Set spending limits for employee spending on company cards, or limit their use to specific types of purchases. You run some risk when employees have access to your business credit card, and virtual card numbers help reduce that risk.
Use it to pay for subscriptions so it is easier to cancel or avoid auto renewals.
Get enhanced tracking of business purchases. You may be able to see more detailed insights into purchases than you’d get without virtual card numbers.
Get access to the card account before a physical credit card is delivered. (Not all issuers offer this.)
Carry fewer plastic cards in your purse or wallet and generate less plastic waste.
For online advertisers using dash.fi, virtual card numbers provide an especially important benefit. Dash.fi allows you to create unlimited cards with addresses that are congruent to the account contact details. What does that mean? If you are using an ad agency to manage online advertising, you can create a unique card number with an address that matches their contact information and avoid having the card declined because the user account and credit card information do not match.
Where You Can Get A Virtual Credit Card Instantly
There are several ways to get a virtual card instantly.
1. Get a credit card that offers virtual card numbers. Some of the major credit card issuers do not offer virtual card numbers. Instead they allow you to add your card to digital wallets, such as Google Pay or Apple Pay. When you use the wallet to make a purchase the account number is hidden from the merchant. That may be helpful in certain cases but it’s not the same as a virtual card number.
However, a few issuers do offer virtual cards. Capital One offers a tool called Eno that will generate virtual card numbers for online purchases, for example, and Citi also offers virtual card numbers.
Tip: dash.fi offers unlimited virtual cards with unique name, address, and zip code for each ad account, channel, and expense. Once you are approved for a dash.fi card, you can create unlimited virtual card numbers instantly.
2. Use a third-party service that creates virtual card numbers for instant use. For example, Privacy.com allows you to create virtual credit cards for specific purchases with monthly or annual spending limits. Your bank account or debit card will be charged for those purchases.
Temporary Instant Virtual Credit Cards Vs Permanent Instant Cards
When you get approved for a new credit card, the card issuer may offer the ability to get instant access to your credit card number before you receive a permanent card in the mail which can take ten business days or longer.
Getting your card number right away can be helpful if you are trying to make a time-sensitive purchase or if you want to start spending right away to earn credit card bonus points or rewards. You will often need to set up an account on the issuer’s mobile app in order to get an instant credit card number.
Note that this feature often provides access to the permanent card number that will be imprinted on your physical card rather than a temporary card number that can only be used for limited purchases.
Instant Approval Virtual Credit Cards
When someone is looking for an instant approval virtual credit card, they are often looking to get approved for a credit card they can use right away, without having to wait ten business days or longer for a physical card to arrive.
For most credit cards, you can often get approved almost instantly (or at least within a few days) if you meet the issuer’s qualifications, such as minimum credit score and income requirements. Many credit card issuers offer online applications and can make a decision very quickly.
Instant credit card numbers are available from the follower issuers when you are approved for the card. Note that this access typically gives you instant access to the card number that will appear on your card when you receive it. You often must use the mobile app in order to get the number:
Bank of America (most cards if approved from mobile app)
Barclays (most cards, not all)
Chase (not all card, not business cards)
Citi (certain cards)
Cobranded personal credit cards that offer instant card numbers upon approval include:
Paypal Cashback Mastercard
Venmo Credit Card
While having access to instant credit card numbers and virtual credit cards can be helpful, it’s also important to choose the best credit card overall for your business. You want to make sure the terms of the card are a good fit.
When evaluating credit card offers, consider the costs, such as the annual fee, the interest rate (if you plan to carry a balance), and foreign transaction fees if you make purchases outside the US.
Most business owners also look for rewards credit cards with perks such as cash back or rewards points.
If your business will make a large amount of charges, for example for online ads, you’ll want a card that will provide you with significantly higher credit lines so you can scale ad spend when needed.