Virtual Payment Cards – What You Need to Know

The year 2018 is on pace to be the second-worst ever in terms of data breaches, with over 3600 breaches that compromised more than 3 billion records. Corporate America is either unwilling or unable to protect consumers from the theft of credit/debit card data entrusted to e-commerce sites. And yes this means Linden Labs as well with numerous reports to our support system alone about account and credit card breaches!  So here are some tips to help you protect yourself…

Protect Yourself With Virtual Payment Cards

Data breaches are reported with alarming regularity, and can result in your name, address, phone number and credit card detail being sold online to the highest bidder on the dark web. This gives identity thieves and scammers all the information they need to place an online order, as if they were you.

Given that data breaches are likely to continue happening, consumers are well advised to seek out ways to buy things online without directly sharing their credit card details with online stores. Here are some ways to do that.

PayPal, Square Cash, and Venmo are examples of “payment agents.” PayPal, for example, stores your payment card data securely. It pays your tab when you check out on an e-commerce site, and charges the amount to your card. The seller never gets your card details. But not all e-tailers accept such indirect payments; they insist on card details. For them, another solution exists. “Virtual credit/debit cards” function like a temporary or disposal credit card that is valid for only one transaction. You get a card number, expiration date, and security code, minus the plastic. After you use that virtual card to pay for something, it can never be used again. Your real card is charged the amount of the transaction. The online store where you made the purchase never sees your real card’s details.

And guess what else? They can’t ding you for those sneaky recurring “membership,” “subscription,” or “renewal” fees.

Virtual cards are available from some card issuers, including Bank of America ShopSafe, Capital One ENO, and Citi Virtual Account Numbers. The latter are available only on select cards; log into your Citi account to see if your card qualifies. Some credit unions offer virtual debit card numbers that work with the Visa debit cards issued with new accounts. If your bank or credit union does not offer virtual cards, there are third-party services that can give your one-time virtual card details and charge the amount to a real card whose details you provide. is one such service. Blur Premium is a comprehensive privacy app that includes virtual card numbers as one feature (Blur calls them “masked” card numbers).

Other Options for Virtual Cards

There are more features to virtual cards than just “use once” security. You may also be able to create a virtual card that works repeatedly but only with one merchant that you specify. You may be able to set an expiration date of up to one year on a virtual card; that effectively shuts down automatic annual renewals. When used, these features can make stolen card numbers virtually useless to thieves, while sparing you the hassle of generating a new card number for every transaction.

Virtual cards are not accepted by all merchants, unfortunately. There are various reasons why a merchant might reject virtual cards; the most legitimate one is that additional fees of 2-4% associated with the use of virtual cards are taken out of the merchant’s receipts.

Virtual cards are not invulnerable protection against fraud. But they do provide strong protection against unauthorized use of your card details. Talk to your bank or card issuer about virtual cards and other enhanced security features you may not know about. Implementing enhanced security could spare you financial loss, and it will definitely give you greater peace of mind.

So be safe in every online transaction, and have a great week From all of us on the ZI Staff.