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Virtual cards in Ireland
Get all the benefits of going cashless without carrying a card.
Physical cards in the form of debit cards, credit cards and prepaid cards give you convenient access to your funds. Virtual cards allow you to access your funds online or by using your smartphone at the checkout.
What is a virtual card?
A virtual card is essentially a digital version of a physical, plastic card. There are 3 different types of virtual cards:
- Virtual debit cards
- Virtual credit cards
- Virtual prepaid cards
A virtual card is a number that you use to securely shop online — it can be linked to a prepaid account, bank account or credit card. These card numbers remain active for certain periods of time or can only be used for certain websites, so they can be more secure than using a single debit card for all of your online shopping.
A virtual card can also be held in a digital wallet, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or another banking app. You access the virtual debit card from your digital wallet and pay using contactless payment technology just like you would with your physical card.
Compare a range of digital bank cards
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What are the benefits of a virtual card?
Using a virtual card has a number of advantages, including:
- Security. If you’re using a virtual card that generates a random card number, this will help keep your funds secure when shopping online.
- Convenience. You won’t need to bring a physical debit card with you to complete transactions in-store. You can pay with your smartphone.
- Speed. You won’t need to wait for a card to be delivered when you sign up for a new account or if your card expires. With the new digital banks, you may be able to use your virtual card as soon as your account is active.
- Card options. There are single- and multi-use virtual cards available to suit your online payment needs, and you can use a prepaid card or link it to your bank account or credit card provider.
- Currency options. Some providers may offer multi-currency prepaid debit cards, allowing you to save on currency conversion fees when buying from overseas retailers.
What are the drawbacks to a virtual card?
Keep in mind virtual cards may not suit everyone. Remember that:
- Prepaid virtual cards will have card limits. If you choose a prepaid card, it will have limits on the amount of funds you can hold on the card. Consider if these limits are too restrictive for you.
- You may have transaction limits. Banks commonly set limits for how much you can put on a contactless card in a single purchase.
- The virtual card’s shelf life. Getting a refund onto a virtual card originally used for a purchase when the virtual card details have since expired.
- No cash withdrawal. As there’s no physical card, you won’t be able to withdraw money with it. It’s solely for online purchases.
How do I use a virtual card?
It depends on the type of virtual card you choose.
Virtual debit cards
If you opt for a virtual debit card that can be loaded into a digital wallet, you’ll need to have a bank account that offers this option. Once you’ve opened the account and have the physical card, you can download your chosen digital wallet and add the card to it to start spending your funds. The bank may also be able to give you a virtual debit card in your bank app before it sends you the physical card.
Virtual credit cards
If you choose a virtual credit card for online shopping, just sign up online and follow the online process. You should receive your card number once the process is completed, which you can use to start spending. You may be able to link this card to a PayPal account or bank account or you may need to load funds to the virtual card account itself. Remember that interest will be added to your virtual credit card the same way interest can build up on a physical card if the balance isn’t paid off in full each month.
Virtual prepaid cards
Virtual prepaid cards are similar to virtual debit cards and virtual credit cards. However, rather than having an overdraft facility or a line of credit, you add your own funds onto a virtual prepaid card. This means you can never overspend more than your balance and can’t accrue interest. There may still be other fees applied such as registration fees, top-ups and monthly fees.
Virtual cards are quickly gaining in popularity, but it’ll be a while before they are accepted everywhere. If you’re interested in using a virtual card, make sure to compare your options to find institutions with virtual card options.
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