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A virtual credit card number is a limited-use code tied to a credit card you already have. You can request a one-time virtual credit card number from your card issuer, if it offers this feature, to use for an online purchase.
Why use a virtual credit card number? It can make online shopping more secure because you don’t enter your actual card number at checkout. If a merchant you shop at is the victim of a data breach, your credit card information wouldn’t be compromised. In a way, this process is similar to a digital wallet’s built-in security features. Such wallets also use a random code when you hover your smartphone over a payment terminal, keeping your card number hidden from the merchant.
Some cards grant you a virtual number to use until your physical card arrives in the mail. This way, you can begin using a new card instantly once your application is approved. When you receive the physical card, you’ll begin using that number instead.
How to create a virtual credit card number
Through your card or card issuer
Capital One cardholders can request virtual card numbers through the issuer’s Eno browser extension. Select Citi cards offer virtual credit card numbers as a feature. Log in to your account to see whether you’re eligible to enroll. The Venmo Credit Card, issued by Synchrony, offers a virtual credit card number alongside the physical card. You can use the virtual card number to shop online and request a new one (which would render the old number unusable) if needed.
Through 'Click to Pay'
If your card issuer doesn’t provide virtual numbers as a benefit, there’s a workaround. Click to Pay is a payment system that works with Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. It streamlines the online checkout process at participating merchants by allowing you to store the credit cards of your choice. When making a purchase, you can choose which card to use without having to reenter your information. Click to Pay uses tokenization, which allows you to make a purchase without sharing your personal information with the merchant.
Through Google Chrome
With Google Chrome, you were already able to save personal information to your Google account, like credit card numbers and addresses, and the browser would automatically fill in that information for you later on. Now, you can create virtual cards for Capital One card accounts, so when you shop online, a virtual card number is filled in during checkout.
Through an app
You can use an app like Privacy to generate virtual card numbers for online purchases. With this app, you can also create virtual cards for specific merchants and set spending limits on those cards.