There’s no doubt that credit cards make certain purchases much easier to complete — especially with the rise in online shopping.
However, there are concerns about the security involved with credit cards. What if someone gets access to your credit card number and makes fraudulent purchases? The impact from such a situation can be large, and difficult to clear up.
One way to protect your credit card information while still taking advantage of the convenience of plastic is to use virtual credit card numbers.
What are Virtual Credit Card Numbers?
Many credit card issuers offer the option of assigning you a virtual credit card number if you feel uncomfortable giving out your regular credit card number. Your credit card issuer provides you with an alternative number, which is attached to your credit card account.
The number might work for a single purchase, or it might work for two or three purchases. Another option is to put a dollar limit on the virtual number. It’s like having a sub-account with a different credit limit. Once the purchase limit or dollar limit is reached, the virtual number no longer works.
With a virtual number, you can buy with credit online, and if someone steals your virtual credit card number as a result, he or she won’t be able to do anything with it, since you will have already used it.
How to Get a Virtual Credit Card Number
In many cases, all you need to do is sign in to your credit card account to get a virtual credit card number. Many issuers have a section on their web sites on virtual credit card numbers, and you can have one assigned before you make a purchase online. Most virtual credit card numbers are instant, so you can use it immediately on your planned purchase.
Make sure you read the fine print, though. You want to be clear on how the virtual credit card number is issued, as well as the terms that govern it. Make sure that you understand the dollar limit, or how often you can use the number before it is deactivated.
How Else are Virtual Credit Card Numbers Used?
It’s possible to get virtual numbers assigned to you from third-party payment processors as well. PayPal will issue you a virtual debit card number that can be drawn upon your PayPal balance — handy for when you want to use your PayPal balance but an online retailer doesn’t accept PayPal.
Google Wallet is also making use of virtual credit card numbers. You get a virtual MasterCard number with Google Wallet that is used to help complete transactions with your smart phone. Unlike virtual numbers issued for a set period of time, though, the virtual MasterCard number you get from Google Wallet is used regularly when you use your smart phone to pay. The virtual number is for the benefit of merchants, and ease of use. However, it is connected to your Google Wallet account, and your preferred method of payment (credit or debit) is used to collect from you.
Virtual credit card numbers are gaining in popularity, and it may not be too long before you use one.