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What is a virtual credit card and how do they work

Gain an extra layer of protection for when you shop online.

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A virtual credit card is a security feature offered by some card providers that masks your real credit card numbers when shopping online. Using a virtual credit card can help keep your information safe, though not all providers offer the feature. Here’s how they work and how you can use them.

How does a virtual credit card work?

Virtual credit card’s are actually a program you receive from your provider. This program allows you to generate random credit card numbers that are connected with your real credit card. You can set dollar limits, expiration dates or even make one virtual card usable only at one merchant online. When you buy online, you use your virtual card number while keeping your real credit card number safe.

Our pick for a virtual credit card number

Citi® Double Cash Card

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
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Which credit card issuers offer virtual credit cards?

As of this writing, Citi virtual cards and Capital One virtual cards are the most dominant — Capital One offers this feature on all of its cards and Citi on eligible credit cards.

Card issuer Offers virtual card
Capital One

Does American Express have a virtual credit card?

American Express doesn’t have a virtual credit card for consumer use, but it does have it for corporate use with Amex Go. The latter lets midsize and large companies issue virtual credit cards to their employees for company spending.

Does Chase have a virtual credit card?

Chase doesn’t offer virtual credit card numbers for online purchases.

Does Discover have a virtual credit card?

As of 2014, Discover has discontinued offering virtual credit card numbers to cardholders. Instead, Discover is focused on supporting digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Does USAA have a virtual credit card?

No, USAA doesn’t offer virtual credit card numbers to its cardholders. Instead, USAA supports mobile digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, which serve a similar purpose. The only downside is that digital wallets aren’t accepted everywhere, unlike virtual credit cards.

Does Mastercard have a virtual credit card?

Mastercard doesn’t have its own proprietary virtual credit card feature. Instead, you can use virtual credit card numbers for your Mastercard issued by Citi or Capital One, the only providers that offer this perk.

Does Mastercard have a virtual credit card alternative?

Mastercard has an alternative to a virtual credit card as it offers its own digital wallet called Masterpass. Similar to virtual credit cards, Masterpass helps you hide your credit card information from online merchants. But unlike virtual credit cards that have wide online acceptance, you can only use Masterpass at participating retailers.

Compare virtual card options

To check out your virtual card options side-by-side, choose your credit score below and click “Show Cards” to start comparing.

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
An impressive 18 months intro APR on balance transfers and purchases, as well as no annual fee make this one of the top 0% APR cards available.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)
13.99% to 23.99% variable
Earn up to 2% on every purchase with no annual fee. This is the highest flat-rate cashback card on the market.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases
15.24% variable
An impressive cashback card that offers up to 4% back on everyday purchases like gas, travel and dining all for the cost of a Costco membership.
Citi Rewards+℠ Card
Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable)
Get 2x points on restaurants and gas with this unique no-annual-fee card. Your rewards round up to the nearest 10 points for each purchase!
Brex 30 Card
7x points on rideshares, 4x on Brex Travel, 3x at restaurants, 2x on software subscriptions and 1x points on all other purchases
The first corporate card for startups. No personal liability or security deposit needed, meaning your personal credit score won't be affected.

Compare up to 4 providers

Pros and Cons of virtual credit cards


  • Secure online shopping
  • No need to get a new credit card if your virtual card is compromised
  • Can set up dollar limits and expiration date of virtual cards
  • Can make one virtual card usable only at one online store
  • Can lock or delete a virtual card number whenever you want


  • Virtual cards can only be used online or by phone
  • If you’re not tech-savvy, it may feel overwhelming to figure out
  • It’s hard to make returns if your virtual card expires
  • Not recommended to use at merchants that require a physical credit card as proof

Bottom line

Virtual credit cards are a nice security feature if you often make purchases online. This helps you keep your real credit card information safe while exposing random credit card numbers that you create. Unfortunately, just a few issuers offer this feature at this time.

If you’re looking for a similar level of digital credit card security, take a look at digital wallets. Most credit cards support this feature, meaning you have your pick of all credit card options.

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