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How to Get a Virtual Card Number

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How to Get a Virtual Card Number
Photo / Andrew Basil / Bank Bazaar

Frequent online shoppers face an increased risk of falling victim to cybercrime, especially those who store their credit card information in web browsers and use the same card for autopay and everyday spending. A study by Security.org highlighted this vulnerability, showing a higher likelihood of credit card fraud for such individuals.

Photo / Andrew Basil / Bank Bazaar

Protecting yourself from potential attacks can be made easier by using virtual card numbers during online checkouts. By opting for this feature, you receive a unique set of numbers each time you make a purchase, making it challenging for hackers to access your actual card details.

Understanding how virtual card numbers function and learning the process to generate one from your bank can go a long way in enhancing your online security. These virtual card numbers act as a shield against unauthorized access to your primary card information, offering an extra layer of protection when making online transactions. By utilizing this feature, you can mitigate the risks associated with cybercrime and safeguard your financial data effectively.

What is a virtual credit card number?

A virtual card number is a unique 16-digit combination, along with a CVV and expiration date, generated for one-time use and linked to your credit card account. Whether you’re shopping online or making phone purchases, this virtual card number can be used instead of your actual card number. By doing so, you significantly reduce the risk of credit card fraud and provide an additional layer of security for cardholders.

If you’re looking for added protection for your personal information, consider exploring the best identity protection services available. These services can offer various safeguards to keep your data secure and protect you from potential identity theft.

How a virtual card number works

Virtual card numbers are essentially random sets of digits, but they are still linked to your credit card account. When you use a virtual card number for any transactions, the charges will be reflected on your regular credit card statement. These numbers are often available through web browser extensions or mobile apps provided by some issuers.

One significant advantage of virtual card numbers is that you can monitor the transactions made using them in real time. This feature allows you to stay on top of your spending and be aware of any unauthorized charges quickly. Another benefit is that virtual card numbers are typically intended for one-time use. So, when you make another purchase, you will receive a new set of numbers.

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One crucial aspect of using virtual card numbers is that they offer added security. In case a merchant experiences a data breach, your virtual card number will likely be protected from future use, minimizing the risk of fraudulent activities.

Pros and cons of a virtual credit card number

Using virtual credit card numbers offered by your bank can significantly reduce the risk of credit card fraud associated with online transactions. These virtual numbers act as substitutes for your actual card information, protecting it from potential hackers.

However, it’s worth noting that generating a virtual credit card number may not always be possible when making in-store purchases. In such cases, you’ll need to use your physical card for payment at the kiosk.

But there’s an alternative if the retailer accepts digital wallet transactions like Google Pay or Apple Pay. Digital wallets store your credit card information and generate unique encrypted card numbers (tokens) for each transaction, enhancing security.

The drawback of using virtual credit card numbers is the extra step required for generating them. Many people prefer the convenience of using their real card numbers for quicker checkout.

For those prioritizing security, using virtual card numbers remains a wise choice. Some credit card issuers have improved virtual card services over the years. For instance, Capital One offers a free browser extension called “Eno,” which prompts users to use virtual card numbers at checkout, enhancing ease of use and security.

Why virtual credit card numbers matter

Credit card fraud can be an incredibly invasive experience, leaving victims feeling violated and concerned about their privacy. Dealing with the aftermath involves contacting the bank, cancelling the affected card, and waiting for the fraudulent charges to be removed from the statement, which can be a hassle.

However, there is a solution that offers both safety and convenience: virtual card numbers. These virtual numbers come in handy in various situations. For instance, while waiting for a replacement physical card to arrive, you can still make secure payments using virtual card numbers.

Virtual card numbers provide an added layer of security, as they are distinct from your physical card information. This uniqueness makes them a great tool for online transactions where you may have reservations about sharing your actual card details.

Another advantage of virtual card numbers is their one-time or limited-use nature. You can create a virtual card number for a specific purchase or set a spending limit, ensuring that even if the information is compromised, the damage potential is greatly reduced.

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Using virtual card numbers also eliminates the need to update payment information on various platforms or subscription services when you get a new physical card. This saves time and ensures a smooth payment experience without interruptions.

How do you generate a virtual card number?

Virtual card numbers are currently offered by a limited number of issuers such as American Express, Capital One, and Citi. To get your virtual card number, the process will differ depending on the specific card you have. You should navigate to your online account settings and enroll in the service to obtain your virtual card number.

In case you are unable to locate this feature in your account settings, reaching out to your bank directly is another option. By contacting them, you can inquire about the process for generating a virtual card number, CVV, and expiration date.

Keep in mind that each bank might have slightly different procedures for generating virtual card numbers, so it’s essential to follow the instructions provided by your particular issuer.

How do I get a virtual card?

Getting a virtual card requires having an existing credit card account with certain issuers. Three major issuers that offer virtual card numbers are American Express, Capital One, and Citi.

For American Express users, there are two ways to obtain a virtual card number. One is through the Google Chrome desktop version, and the other is via an Android mobile device. During the checkout process with any retailer, you’ll receive an automatic prompt asking if you want to enroll for an Amex virtual card number.

Capital One users can access virtual card numbers through Eno, which is Capital One’s digital assistant. By adding Eno to your browser extension, you can easily obtain your Capital One virtual card number. Whenever you’re ready to make a purchase, Eno will pop up and offer you the option to use a virtual card number.

As for Citi customers, enrolling and receiving virtual account numbers is a straightforward process when logged into your Citi account. You can simply visit a specific page to initiate the enrollment process.

Each issuer has its own method of providing virtual card numbers, but they all serve as a secure and convenient way to make online purchases without revealing your actual credit card details.

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Virtual credit cards vs. payment apps

Digital payment apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay offer enhanced security by not displaying your full card numbers when stored for use. Instead, only the last four digits are visible, protecting your real card numbers from potential hackers or unauthorized access to your phone.

One of the key safety features of mobile payment apps is tokenization. This process generates a temporary and random set of numbers to use when making a payment to a merchant. Consequently, even in the event of a data breach, the hacker won’t be able to access your information as the generated numbers become invalid after use.

By using these secure payment apps rather than physical cards, you can significantly reduce the risk of your information being compromised. The combination of tokenization and restricted card number visibility ensures a safer transaction experience for users.

Is a virtual card number safe?

Virtual card numbers are an increasingly popular option for secure online payments, offering enhanced protection compared to physical cards. These temporary numbers provide an added layer of security, especially in the face of data breaches and online risks.

It is essential to inquire with your bank about the availability of virtual card number services. If your bank doesn’t offer this feature, you might want to explore credit card options from providers like American Express, Capital One, or Citi, which do offer the added security of virtual card numbers.

Having a virtual card number can give you peace of mind while shopping online, as it helps prevent your actual card details from being exposed to potential hackers and fraudsters. By using temporary numbers, you significantly reduce the risk of your sensitive financial information falling into the wrong hands.

Before applying for a credit card with virtual card number capabilities, be sure to understand any associated fees or terms and conditions. While the added security can be beneficial, it’s essential to consider all aspects of the credit card offering to make an informed decision.

Overall, virtual card numbers offer a convenient and secure payment option for online transactions, making them an excellent choice for anyone concerned about the safety of their financial information in the digital world.