Have you ever had your credit card information stolen?may help protect you during in-person transactions, but they can't keep you safe during online or phone purchases. Replacing a compromised credit card can be difficult and stressful, especially when you know your entire credit may be at risk. Though you can always after the fact, there's something you can do now to help prevent identity theft.
Enter virtual credit cards. These are temporary, disposable digital credit cards designed for online or over-the-phone purchases. When you use a virtual card to make a purchase, the payment recipient can only access and store the information of that temporary card, not your actual credit card account number. This protects your account from exposure in the case of a data breach and adds an additional layer of security to your online transactions.
Most card issuers don't directly offer the ability to generate virtual account numbers, or virtual credit cards, right from your account --. But apps and browser extensions like Click To Pay, Masterpass by MasterCard, American Express Go and Capital One Eno all provide virtual card options for more secure purchases on many popular credit cards.
Click To Pay
For Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover cardholders
Click To Pay is a joint venture launched by Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover designed to serve as a unifying service to provide more secure online transactions. It's a virtual card solution that supports cards issued by many different credit companies, including all the partner companies backing the project. That means it serves as a replacement for individual virtual card services including Visa Checkout, Mastercard's Masterpass and American Express' Express Checkout.
To enroll in Click To Pay, you have to go through your card issuer and sign up for the service. Once your card is made eligible for the virtual card feature, you'll be able to use it at any online retailer that offers the Click To Pay option at checkout. If you're purchasing online, you should be able to select the Click To Pay option and simply log in to your account. Click To Pay will take care of the rest by generating a temporary card to complete the transaction. While Click To Pay doesn't offer much control and isn't available at all retailers, several big-box stores and other noteworthy sellers have adopted it as an option.
American Express Go™
For Amex cardholders
American Express offers a virtual credit card service to its cardholders through a service called American Express Go. Originally designed for businesses to offer corporate card access for employees, American Express Go allows you to generate a virtual credit card for any American Express account. You can also set spending limits and custom time frames for how long the card can remain active through the portal.
The virtual card can be loaded into digital wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay, allowing you to use your phone to pay at in-person businesses that accept these payment methods. Unlike most virtual cards, American Express also offers the ability to get a physical version of your virtual card. This will still have the temporary, generated 15-digit number on it so your main account will be protected and could come in handy when making payments during trips.
Cost: There's a one-time $2 fee for creating your virtual card, and a $5 per fee to use your card in a digital wallet or to create a physical card.
Capital One Eno
For Capital One cardholders
Capital One Eno is Capital One's virtual credit card service, available to any Capital One credit card holder. In order to use Capital One Eno, which is the name of the company's virtual assistant, you'll need to log in to your Capital One account and install the Eno extension in your web browser. Eno is compatible with Edge, Chrome and Firefox. Once installed, the assistant will pop up automatically at checkout and offer to generate a virtual card for you.
If you'd rather not install Eno in your web browser, you can generate virtual cards through the Capital One mobile app or the Capital One website, which you can then use by copying the card information and using it at checkout. You cannot use Eno or any Capital One virtual card at in-person merchants -- only online retailers. But the Eno extension makes the process of using virtual cards as easy and convenient as possible, especially since Eno keeps track of virtual cards used for specific online merchants.
Citibank Virtual Account Numbers
For some Citi cardholders
Citi's solution to the virtual credit card is the Citi Virtual Account Numbers feature, which is available to many Citibank cardholders. Users can enroll in the Virtual Account Numbers feature online and then access the virtual card generator either online through the Citi web portal or via an app available for Windows computers. The service will generate a 16-digit card with a CVV and an expiration date that you can set. Every transaction you make with a Citi virtual card will appear on your normal monthly bank statement with the corresponding virtual account number so you can track every transaction easily.
One of the benefits of Citi Virtual Account Numbers is that you aren't restricted to online use. The number can be used to make purchases over the phone or for making reservations the way you would with a physical card. Citibank doesn't disclose which cardholders are eligible to use the Citi Virtual Account Numbers feature, so you may not qualify. But you can enroll in the feature online to find out if it's available for you.
Masterpass by Mastercard™
For Mastercard, Visa, Amex and Discover cardholders
Masterpass is Mastercard's take on the virtual card service, though it's actually closer to a digital wallet. Like other options, Masterpass generates a temporary card number for you to make purchases. What's different is that you can use Masterpass with cards from card issuers other than Mastercard. That means it'll generate a virtual card for you even if you're using an American Express, Discover or Visa card, among other options. The virtual card is available through the Masterpass app, which you can get on Android or through the apps of banking partners that support Masterpass.
Because Masterpass operates like a digital wallet, you can make in-person purchases at a number of participating retailers that support the service at checkout. You'll also earn rewards for using the service, which is an additional incentive.
Note: Mastercard is phasing out the Masterpass feature in favor of a solution called Click To Pay (see above).
American Express Go
Yes, mobile (iOS/Android)
Digital wallet, optional physical card, customizable expiration date, spending limit
$2 fee for online-only, $5 for digital wallet/physical card
Capital One Eno
Yes, web extension
Virtual assistant, merchant specific card number
Citibank Virtual Account Numbers
Yes, Windows app
Customizable expiration date, make purchases over the phone
Masterpass by Mastercard
Yes, mobile (Android)
Digital wallet, rewards
Click To Pay
Available at checkout from select online retailers