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Virtual credit cards are digital versions of real, physical credit cards.
You can use them instead of your actual card details when shopping online or by phone, to help prevent credit card fraud and identity theft along with myriad other purposes.
There are currently only four credit card issuers that provide virtual account numbers. We’ll summarize them here, and then go into more detail below.
There are also several digital wallet services that can perform a very similar function for online transactions (and in-store as well). You can learn more about them below.
|Virtual Account Provider||Details|
|Capital One Eno||
|Citi Virtual Card Accounts||
|Apple Card (Apple & Goldman Sachs)||
You’ll need a Capital One card to use Eno, Capital One’s “intelligent assistant.” You’ll also need to use either the Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browser, so you can get the Eno extension.
The virtual card numbers you create with Eno will be merchant-specific, meaning each one can only be used with its paired merchant.
After installing the extension, the Eno assistant will pop up when you’re on a checkout page. Follow the instructions to create a virtual card number for that merchant. That number will be saved and used for future purchases from that same merchant.
Or, you can use Eno to create virtual cards before making purchases.
With Capital One, if you report your physical card as lost or stolen your virtual card numbers will remain active.
The Eno tool includes a unique service that allows you to get your full card information as soon as you’re approved, rather than having to wait until you get the physical card in the mail. That includes the account number, expiration date, and CVV security code. Or, if your card is lost or stolen, Eno can provide your replacement card information instantly to help you get back on track more quickly.
Capital One credit cards are available for people of all credit ranges. Check out some of Capital One’s best credit cards below.
Read more in our Review of the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card
Read more in our Review of the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Read more in our Review of the Capital One Journey Student Credit Card
Most Citi cards are eligible for virtual account numbers. The only exceptions are the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi (Review), along with the business version of that card, and the old Citi Dividend card (which is no longer open to new applications).
Each virtual card will be specific to a single merchant. You can set spending limits and expiration dates.
You can manage and use your virtual account numbers through Citi’s web service. Windows users can choose to download a program to manage virtual accounts instead.
With Citi, if you report your physical card as lost or stolen your virtual card numbers will be canceled as well. So you’ll need to create new virtual cards to replace them. This is unlike Bank of America and Capital One, which allow your virtual cards to remain active when you report your card as lost or stolen.
Learn more about Citi credit cards, or take a look at a few of Citi’s best card offers.
Read more in our Review of the Citi Double Cash Card
Read more in our Review of the Citi Prestige Credit Card
Read more in our Review of the Citi Simplicity Mastercard
The Apple Card has a built-in virtual credit card number. You can’t manage multiple virtual credit card numbers at one time with this card, but cardholders do have the option to “Request New Card Number” if they think their cards’ information has been compromised.
This virtual card number can be used for online purchases, or anywhere a full credit card number must be entered.
The card number stored in the physical Apple Card’s magnetic stripe is different from this virtual credit card number, so one does not need to be replaced if the other is compromised.
The screen with the virtual card number is available by navigating to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Apple Card > Card Information, and requires authentication with Touch ID, Face ID, or a passcode.
After you’re approved, all three offer instant access to virtual credit cards designed for use with online and phone transactions. You’ll be in total control of where and how your virtual cards are used once they’re issued.
You can create as many virtual cards as necessary, each with fresh credentials, plus customizable limits that can be changed in real time. And, naturally, you can close your virtual cards whenever.
A virtual card functions like a disposable representative of your real card. If something happens to a virtual card, you can just delete it and get a new one.
The two main purposes for using virtual account numbers (VANs) are security and convenience. Instead of providing merchants with your actual credit card details, you can just give the virtual card number.
Then, if there’s any security issue with the website or company, you can simply cancel that virtual card. You don’t need to worry about thieves making all sorts of fraudulent transactions, because they would just have that one limited number. And you won’t need to report your card information as stolen and get a new card mailed.
Here’s a summary of just about everything you need to know about virtual credit cards:
Virtual cards don’t come with any extra security measures compared to physical cards. They’re just an extra layer on top of the fraud protections you already have. The CARD Act limits your personal fraud liability to $50, and the major credit card issuers go even further by providing $0 liability policies.
A virtual card doesn’t give you anything more than that, but it does serve a bit like a first line of defense that you can easily replace. Thieves will get your disposable card details instead of your actual credit card details.
Using virtual card numbers could be a wise move if you’re making purchases from a website that you suspect is shady or unsecure.
Some credit card companies offer virtual credit cards, but not all. Keep reading to learn more and find out where you can get a virtual card number right now.
How secure do you feel when shopping online? Are you willing to give your real account details to any website you might make a purchase from?
Your answers probably depend on your temperament, and where you tend to shop. If you only make purchases from big, popular merchants, you can feel safe from scams but data breaches are still a threat. When it comes to smaller companies, which might have websites that seem cheap, shady, or scammy, it’s normal to feel more skeptical about the security of your private data.
Here are some situations in which you might want to use a virtual credit card, for security or otherwise:
Should you be using virtual account numbers? There aren’t many serious downsides, except in some rare occasions.
Rather than giving you a virtual number to use, digital wallets store your card information in a (presumably) secure location. Then, a unique token is created whenever you make a purchase, and this is used instead of your real card information.
Digital wallets aren’t exactly virtual credit card services, but they have basically the same effect: They hide your real account details when making payments, by creating and using a one-time random number. You can only use these digital wallets with certain merchants, however.
Two networks and some credit card issuers provide digital wallets. A digital wallet may or may not also be a mobile wallet: an app you can use on your phone to make in-store purchases.
As you can see below, Mastercard Masterpass and Visa Checkout can be used with any of the major credit cards. So you can use either of these services with most credit cards. But a wallet provided by a credit card issuer can only be used with that issuer’s cards.
|Amex Express Checkout|
The Masterpass digital wallet service can be used with any major credit card.
Quite a few merchants accept Masterpass, both online and in-store. Masterpass users will occasionally get special offers, like an extra $5 for loading at least $10 on your Dunkin’ Donuts DD card.
Look for the Masterpass logo to make purchases using this service, or check out the merchant directory in the table above.
The Visa Checkout service replaced the old V.me payment system. After signing up you can add cards from any of the major issuers, not just Visa cards.
Like Masterpass above, Visa Checkout users will occasionally see deals with particular merchants. A recent deal was $25 off a future order at Shutterfly after making a purchase from that company using Visa Checkout.
You can use Visa Checkout at a wide variety of merchants, which you’ll find linked in the table above. Click the Visa Checkout logo to use it for your purchase.
Amex cardholders don’t need to sign up or register to use Amex Express Checkout.
Just click the logo when you checkout with a participating merchant, and you’ll be asked to provide your American Express login details. Then you can select the card you’d like to pay with.
American Express has quite a few good cards. Here are a few of its best.
Read more in our Review of the Platinum Card from American Express
The information related to Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.
Read more in our Review of the Amex Everyday Credit Card
The information related to Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.
Read more in our Review of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Only some cards and devices are eligible for Chase Pay. You can check the list of cards that work in Chase Pay here. Chase Pay is available for iPhone 5 or newer, iOS versions 9 and up. It’s also available for Android OS 4.1 and up.
With some merchants you may need to make purchases through the actual Chase Pay app if you want to use this payment method. Otherwise, like Masterpass and Visa Checkout, you should look for the Chase Pay logo when checking out online.
Here are some of the top credit cards offered by Chase.
Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Read more in our Review of the Chase Freedom Credit Card
Read more in our Review of the Chase Slate Credit Card
Need a credit card fast? Some card issuers provide instant credit card numbers that you can use immediately after being approved.
Not all issuers offer this service for all of their cards. American Express, Capital One, and USAA are the only issuers that provide it for all of their cards. Some other issuers provide it for some of their cards.
Instant card numbers are similar to virtual card numbers, but they’re not quite the same. Instant card account numbers are the same as the account numbers on their corresponding physical cards, while virtual account numbers are different than the account numbers on physical cards. So instant card numbers don’t offer the same kind of protection that virtual numbers do — you’ll be exposing your actual card details online when using instant card numbers.
There are several issuers that offer instant card numbers, at least for some of their cards:
And there’s one other type of credit card that often provides instant card numbers:
There are quite a few other online services that mask, or hide, your payment information.
Some of them use prepaid virtual cards. These aren’t virtual credit cards — rather than having a line of credit, they’re tied to the specific fund that you deposit. They’re pretty much like digital versions of the prepaid cards you can buy at stores.
Other companies may use different methods. And they may be more or less secure, depending on the particular service.
Here are some of the more popular providers of virtual prepaid cards and payment masking services. Take note that we haven’t tested these companies, and we don’t vouch for their services in any way.
Virtual credit card numbers can help keep you secure when shopping online or by phone. They don’t actually provide any extra fraud protections, but they act as an extra layer between you and identity thieves.
Consider using a virtual number if you’re making a payment to a potentially shady company or risky website. Or, if you want to take extra steps to maintain your privacy you can use virtual numbers for all of your online shopping.
If your card issuer doesn’t offer these disposable credit cards, think about using a digital wallet instead. You can go with Visa Checkout or Masterpass for almost any card.
Before entering your credit card information, stop and think: Do you feel confident sending your personal details to this company?
For rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
Virtual credit cards are digital copies of real credit cards that typically feature different card numbers and expiration dates. They can be used online or by phone to help protect your actual account details.
Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.
The information related to Amex EveryDay® Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.
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