How to Use a Virtual Credit Card

You may have heard about the recent Global Payments Breach in which credit card data for over 1.5 million users was exposed to hackers.  Although this is only a fraction of the billion credit cards currently in use by Americans, it’s alarming to see how easily hackers can penetrate secure sites.  A virtual credit card is a nifty and relatively new option offered by some of the major credit card companies.  It’s a great tool to use in conjunction with the others in my do it yourself identity theft protection plan.

In essence, a virtual credit card is a wrapper around your credit card.  It provides an additional layer of security when shopping online.  You might come across some shady sites when shopping online.  If you’re worried about the integrity of the site, you can use a virtual credit card.  These cards are auto-generated by your provider and are for one-time use.

When to use a Virtual Card

When I shop at trusted sites like Amazon I don’t mind using my regular credit card info.  But it can really come in handy at less reputable or less trusted sites.  Some of the best types of sites to use a virtual cc:

  • Lesser Known Daily Deal Sites
  • Subscription Sites like Free Credit Report
  • Gaming and Music Accounts like PS3/Xbox and Itunes
Let’s say you want to get your free credit report and not have to worry about canceling after 2 weeks.  I can’t comment on the legality of this, but it seems to me there is no way the credit report company can charge you without a valid card on file.  You can also use a virtual account for generating multiple purchases from deal sites.  For the latest amazon deal, I read online of people getting over 25 $5 for $10 gift cards by generating multiple virtual account numbers.    

Creating Virtual Account Numbers

I use Citi Card’s Virtual Account Numbers feature to generate my virtual cards.  To get your number, you can either download a program or gain access through their website.  Citi’s program creates a one time use number that is associated with your account number.  You can even set a dollar limit amount and time frame by going into the detailed features.  Here are the links to some other credit card issuer’s virtual account programs:

Even though credit card users are only liable for up to $50 for fraudulent charges, credit card theft can sometimes lead to full blown identity theft.  I think it’s better to take simple steps like this once in a while, rather than deal with trying to get your identity back.

So have you ever used a virtual credit card?  Is it worth the hassle or do you just take your chances when shopping online?

-PF Pro

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Hi, I'm Harry, the owner and head writer for Your PF Pro. I started this site back in 2011 in order to create a place where young professionals could come and get all of their financial questions answered. On the site, you'll find articles on everything from asset allocation for retirement to saving money at Chipotle! So enjoy..

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