Many decades ago, cash was the only recognized payment method in the United States. Flash forward to the 1950s; credit cards were introduced, signaling the beginning of the cashless era. But the cashless era didn’t end there.
The introduction of virtual cards was driven by the increasing incidence of credit/debit card fraud and personal data theft, aiming to provide a secure solution.
Virtual cards are the digital version of credit/debit cards. They are easier to use and control and are designed to protect your private financial information from marauding hackers.
In this article, we introduced what a virtual credit card is, including its pros and cons. Plus, we handpicked some of the best virtual credit and debit card services in the United States. We also included their best features to make comparison and selection easy.
What is a Virtual Credit Card?
A virtual credit card is a digital card with a temporary card number, expiry date, and CVC generated for every transaction you make. Unlike your typical plastic credit card, this unique card is only designed for online and card-not-present transactions and is accessible online.
With a virtual card, you can withdraw money from specific ATMs, shop at your favorite online store or pay for online services without the risk of fraud or personal data theft. Most virtual payment cards—commonly known as disposable or single-use virtual cards—can only be used once, meaning they become useless after use.
Those designed for recurring payments cannot be traced back to your actual credit card or bank account—in the case of a virtual debit card.
In addition to its added security measures, another brilliant feature of a virtual debit card ( or credit card) is that it gives you total control. Instead of depending on your bank, you can select the currency you need, set a spending limit for the card, and select the merchants the card will work for. You can also decide to close or pause the card anytime you wish.
Best virtual credit card providers
Perhaps you like the idea of a digital card and want one to protect your real card details when you purchase online. However, you aren’t sure which to sign up for.
To help make your selection easy, we have highlighted some of the best virtual credit cards in the United States. As a bonus, we added features to make the comparison as easy as pie.
Wise Virtual Credit Card
Wise is a common online payment service provider offering users virtual cards. Its digital card has features that simplify managing and controlling expenses with a few clicks. Plus, it allows you to make online transactions using real-time exchange rates.
Wise allows users to freeze their cards after each use, reducing the possibility of fraud. The card also supports over 50 currencies, which can be converted in real-time and used to spend online, abroad, or in-store without difficulties.
To access a Wise virtual debit card, use the Wise app or website, select the option for “card” from the menu, and then you can get a virtual card instantly.
- Its services are open to individuals in over 30 countries.
- Wise virtual debit card supports many currencies (over 50)
- Ideal for business or personal use
- Use it to shop in-store or online without difficulties
- Free for customers with personal or business accounts
- You can shop online with a Wise virtual debit card using a real exchange rate.
- Supports contactless payment using Apple Pay, Google Pay
- You can freeze your wise virtual debit card anytime.
Are you concerned about exposing your real credit/debit card details on e-commerce stores, especially untrustworthy ones? Are you looking for a secure way to make purchases online? If so, Privacy.com’s virtual debit card is crying for your attention!
Privacy.com offers users a temporary card number after a careful internal and third-party audit, making their cards one of the most secure.
The cards issued are free of charge, especially for those who link a bank account to the card. Also, unlike some virtual credit/debit card providers who make compulsory credit checks a requirement to get their card, a credit check isn’t needed to create a privacy.com account. Unfortunately, this card is only eligible for U.S. citizens.
- Has the spend limit option
- Can generate up to 60 cards monthly
- It comes in three pricing tiers: Personal (free), Pro ($10 monthly), and Teams ($25 monthly)
- Personal information stays private every time, thus protecting your money and bank account.
- Free virtual cards if you link them to your bank account
- Set maximum charge limit on each card or lock to a particular vendor
Open is another online payment platform that offers virtual credit card services (credit or debit cards). With their virtual card, you can easily monitor, control, and manage your business online expenditure.
If you like, you can use their “spend limits” option to manage or keep your budget in check. Plus, you can set alerts to inform you of each transaction made with your card.
To receive Open’s virtual card, you must register and open an account via their website. You can embrace their free or paid plan, which offers more features.
- Receive alerts for all out-of-budget expenditures.
- Monitor spending in real-time
- Ideal for managing online subscription
People who love to shop from different US vendors can use US Unlocked virtual cards to facilitate payment regardless of where they are. You’ll have to register for their service, top up your card with $50, and pay a small charge to use the card for one-time purchases from various online vendors in the U.S.
US Unlocked digital card features a U.S. billing/shipping address that smooths payments to U.S. merchants.
Are you a movie fanatic?
The US Unlocked virtual credit card lets you quickly access popular U.S. streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max. Lastly, US Unlocked offers customers two varieties of cards. The first allows a one-time use, while the second is a merchant-specific card,
- It comes with a U.S. billing and shipping address
- It can be used to access U.S.-only websites
- Links to packaging forwarding companies
Payoneer—a popular American financial services company—offers its users access to a virtual card. This card, which has low fees and is accepted in many countries, is ideal for individuals who shop online regularly, especially in stores that accept MasterCard payments.
The Payoneer digital card works like a physical card. When you try to pay for something online, you must enter the virtual card number and other details on the checkout page.
You can get a Payoneer virtual card by filling in your details on their website, after which your application is reviewed before you are given a virtual credit or debit card. You must be an account owner to access the virtual credit card service.
- Free with a Payoneer account
- The application process is smooth
- Ideal for quick online purchases
- Accepted in online stores that support MasterCard
- Digital cards aren’t available for countries like Russia, India, the European Union, the United Kingdom, etc.
Citibank is one of the three banks in the United States that support virtual cards. They offer customers two types of virtual cards: single-use and merchant-locked. The former is designed for one-time use, while the latter allows you to lock the card to the first merchant it’s used with, thus streamlining the payment process and reducing your risk online.
Like some virtual cards, the Citibank virtual credit card has an expiry date and spending limits customization options. The card can make local payments in over 40 countries and 30 unique currencies, making it perfect for globetrotters.
You can use the Citibank virtual credit card for online purchases or reservations, which is available to those who own eligible Citibank cards. Unfortunately, the bank didn’t outline which of their card has this feature.
- Fees depend on the type of card you use to generate your virtual card with
- Limit card use to a few hours or up to two years
- Set a maximum limit or range for spending.
American Express answers the prayers of many freelancers, especially those who sweat to get a credit card. This global payment company—which also doubles as a virtual card provider—offers its customers virtual credit card services that make online purchases easy, quick, and enjoyable.
American Express VCC has your back if you are a freelance digital marketer, writer, or programmer looking to buy a product or service online easily. The card adds ease and smoothness to the payment process and allows you to set spending limits to help control spending and reduce use.
To create an American Express virtual credit card, you must create a profile on the American Express Go website. Then, after registration, the card will be sent to you through the Amex Go app.
- Monitor transactions and control spending
- Simplifies the payment process
- Easy to use
- It helps protect your credit card account online
Are you looking for a virtual card provider with badass security? Or one that’s compatible with all devices? Blur, a popular virtual credit card provider in the United States, ticks all the boxes.
Blur has a virtual card with solid security designed to keep bank transactions or online payments safe and secure. You can use it on various devices, including phones, tablets, PCs, etc., making payments and checkout easy.
Blur allows users to create a new credit card number for each purchase, thus making their transactions more secure. It also has a unique encrypting feature. With this feature activated, hackers can’t gather sensitive bank account details.
- Compatible with all devices
- Encrypts passwords
- It adds ease to the payment process
- It’s free
Netspend doubles as an online financial managing tool and a virtual card provider. It offers users access to a virtual prepaid card that can be used to make secure payments nationwide. The card it provides can help protect your real credit or debit card information from hackers.
Netspend allows users to personalize their cards with a unique photo or symbol. With this card, you can generate a virtual card number and access websites that don’t accept typical debit cards.
Whenever a transaction occurs on your Netspend virtual card, you get notified immediately, thus ensuring that you are up-to-date with your expenditure. Plus, you can check your account balance from any location.
- Easily customizable
- You can check your account balance on the go.
- Can operate a Netspend account in different countries
- Temporary use
- Create up to 6 free virtual debit cards
Online shopping enthusiasts need a virtual card service to protect their details and handle heavy online shopping activities. Card.com is that card with features that can make your shopping spree hassle-free and enjoyable.
You see, Card.com doesn’t only make online shopping fun. It also makes the process of applying for a virtual card easy. Unlike some other cards, Card.com doesn’t demand a credit check from potential users or charge them a hidden fee.
Also, if you care about your card’s aesthetics, Card.com allows its users to customize their cards, choosing among an array of images and photos. This virtual card company has a feature—the early direct deposit feature—that makes payment fast.
- Zero hidden fees
- Zero credit checks
- Integrate easily with your American bank
- Customizable card design
Virtual Credit Cards FAQs
Are Virtual Credit Cards Legal?
Yes. Virtual credit cards are completely legal as they are issued by major banks and companies that are 100% trusted, and you can save the card details on your device and use them from anywhere without any hassle. Virtual credit card generators are legal if you aren’t using them for transactions, such as signing up for a free trial.
How Do I Use a Virtual Card?
A virtual card can be used like your current credit card. Like the latter, you’ll need to visit the online store’s checkout page—either international or local—and fill in the necessary details (the temporary or disposable card number, expiry date, and CVC of the virtual card) to make an online transaction or purchase.
For a better understanding, here is a step-by-step guide on how to use a virtual card:
- Log in to your online bank or card account (website or mobile app).
- Generate or request a virtual credit card number by visiting your account settings or card benefit section.
- Customize or personalize the card based on your transaction needs
- Select a currency (there are multiple currencies to choose from). You can also decide to make the virtual visa card merchant-specific.
- Go to the checking page of the online merchant you want to transact with
- Input your virtual card information and go ahead with the purchase
Voila! Easy-peasy, right?
In addition to online payments, you can also use the virtual card to make contactless payments in stores by integrating it with Apple Pay or Google Pay.
But that’s not all!
The virtual card also allows you to withdraw money or cash from ATMs that support contactless use. You’ll need a digital wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay and a virtual card PIN code, which can be obtained on the LHV mobile app or internet bank.
Ensure that your card is funded before making online payments or transactions. If it isn’t, you can add money by transferring a specific amount from your bank account or physical credit card to the virtual card.
Finally, check in with your bank or credit card company to ensure they provide virtual card services. And if you have any issues generating a virtual credit card, contact your bank.
Which Banks Offer Virtual Credit Cards?
Virtual credit cards are only available to Citibank, Bank of America, and Capital One customers. These banks offer their customers the virtual credit card option directly through the card, a different application (in the case of Citi Bank), or a browser extension.
Although prominent banks like Discover, Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo don’t have cards that offer virtual payment services, they have a similar option—digital wallet solutions. A digital wallet lets customers pay for products using their phones instead of cash or card.
Does PayPal Offer a Virtual Credit Card?
The short answer is Yes. PayPal offers a virtual credit card. However, the virtual card from PayPal is limited to one use only and can’t be used several times. Each time you need a virtual card from PayPal, you need to request one, and PayPal will offer you the virtual card details, including the card number, CVV, and expiry date, which you need to copy to use for your online purchases.
Who Can Benefit From Virtual Cards?
Almost every online shopper can benefit from the immense benefits of a virtual card. Specifically, this card is ideal for those who:
- Are you seeking the best and easiest ways to manage your online subscriptions?
- Want absolute control over their online payments and finances
- Want a card with instant activation
- Want a card that can help them track cash flow anywhere and anytime
- Want a card with an extra layer of security
- Want a card that makes shopping online easy and safe
- Want an easily customizable card
- Often, they buy products or services from unfamiliar or strange e-commerce stores.
- Want a card that can help them easily manage their finances
- Run freelance, digital marketing, blogging, or writing businesses
- Don’t have a credit card and want to access websites that don’t support debit cards
One of the highlights of a virtual payment card is that it gives you total control. Unlike physical cards, you can set spending limits (monthly or yearly) and expiry dates or even choose a nickname for the card. You can also decide to close or pause the card anytime you wish.
What Are The Advantages of Using a Virtual Credit Card?
Virtual credit cards are a real upgrade from the common physical card. Their advantages include convenience, fraud protection, spending controls, and subscription management.
For better understanding, we emphasized the benefits below.
It takes around ten to seven days to receive a new credit card (after approval). However, you can generate a virtual credit card pronto with a few clicks. The best part? They come with a customization option, which allows you to edit the card based on your preference and financial needs.
You can set spending limits or expiration dates. And in case you suspect fraud, you can freeze or close the card with a few clicks. Now, compare these features with a plastic card that puts your account at risk when stolen, and tell us if a virtual credit card service isn’t one of the best services banks offer.
A virtual credit card eliminates the chances of being a credit card fraud or identity theft victim.
You see, most virtual cards are designed for one-time purchases and subscriptions. So if a hacker gets access to the virtual credit card number—which becomes useless after an online transaction—it’ll be impossible for the individual to infiltrate your account.
Also, if the card becomes compromised, you can easily freeze or close it and reopen a new one via your bank’s website.
Are you an impulsive buyer? Do you spend your money uncontrollably? If so, a virtual card can check your spending habits.
It does this by allowing you to set a spending limit for a certain online purchase you intend to make. With that in place, it’ll be impossible for the merchant to charge you more. The spend limit feature will also ensure you don’t waste your budget or cash on unnecessary things.
Bank of America, Citibank, and Discover don’t charge their virtual card. These banks will generate a virtual card number for you free of charge.
Are you subscribed to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Birchbox? Do you spend much of your time trying to monitor each subscription? If so, you need a virtual credit card to streamline the process.
Digital cards offer you an easy way to manage all your subscriptions. You can easily manage and monitor each subscription by setting up a digital or virtual card.
You can even see merchants ripping you off your hard-earned money and canceling your subscription (free of charge) without changing your payment details for each merchant.
What Are The Disadvantages of Having a Virtual Credit Card?
Common disadvantages of using a virtual credit card are:
Unlike a physical credit or debit card, which many banks offer in the United States, a virtual card—especially those offered by banks—is scarce. These three banks provide this card, including Bank of America, Discover, and Citibank. Other prominent banks don’t offer this service or have stopped.
It cannot be used everywhere.
A virtual card is ideal for online purchases and card-not-present transactions. But, there are some cases or situations where your virtual card becomes as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike.
For instance, a virtual card cannot be used to purchase gas at gas stations as they aren’t designed for in-person purchases. Plus, these cards cannot be used when you need to pick up items physically ( e.g., when picking up movies, renting a car, etc.), as the virtual account number you used to pay for the item won’t correlate with the number on your physical card.
Refunds and returns become hard.
A virtual card makes requesting a refund or returning an item complicated. Most retailers often direct refunds to the account used to make the purchase.
Since your card number is temporary and may be invalid when requesting a refund, it becomes difficult to get a refund or return an item.
Can I create a virtual credit card on Google Pay?
Yes, you can create virtual cards on Google Pay. Add a card to your Google account (skip if a credit or debit card is already added) and ensure the save and fill payment option is on.
Then, finally, turn on a virtual card. With this option, your credit or debit card info becomes private or hidden when online purchases with your Chrome browser.
Virtual credit and debit cards are better alternatives to plastic cards or cash. While virtual and physical cards are almost identical, the former has some disadvantages and an edge over its counterpart.
They offer better security and give users total control of their finances, transactions, and the card itself.
When selecting the ideal virtual card vendor, choose one that matches your business or financial needs. Consider its flexibility, ease of use, spend tracking features, and how easy it is to obtain one from the respective virtual card provider.
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