Virtual Credit Cards: How They Work and How to Get Them

An extra layer of protection for when you online shop.

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When you use your credit card to make online purchases, your information can potentially be exposed to fraudsters and hackers. Using a virtual credit card, however, will keep your information safe. It also helps ensure you won’t get locked into certain hard-to-cancel online subscriptions.

What is a virtual credit card and how does it work?

A virtual credit card is a security feature offered by some card providers that masks your real credit card numbers when shopping online.

It works like this: you get a virtual credit card generator from your provider. This allows you to generate random credit card numbers that are connected with your real credit card. You can set dollar limits, expiry date or even make one virtual card usable only at one merchant online. So when you buy online, you use your virtual card number, while keeping your real credit card number safe. This is one of the latest credit card security techniques meant to fight identity theft and fraud.

Our pick for a virtual card

QuadPay Visa Card

  • No annual fee.
  • Split your purchases into four installments over six weeks interest-free
  • Pay for purchases at any online retailer that accepts Visa.
  • Pay at any physical store that accepts mobile wallet payments.
  • As low as $1 convenience fee per payment with a linked card ($4 per order).
  • Get access to your virtual card after signing up for the QuadPay app.
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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 your only options — Capital One for all of its cards and Citi on eligible credit cards.

Card issuerOffers virtual card
Apple
x
American Express
x
Bank of America
x
Barclaycard
x
Brex
x
Capital One
checkmark
Chase
x
Citi
checkmark
HSBC
x
Discover
x
Luxury card
x
PenFed
x
TD Bank
x
U.S. Bank
x
USAA
x
Wells Fargo
x

How to use a virtual credit card

Using your virtual credit card depends on the issuer. Here’s how it works with Citi credit cards:

  1. Visit cardbenefits.citi.com/Products/Virtual-Account-Numbers.
  2. Click Enroll In / Get.
  3. Sign in to your online Citi account.
  4. Select web-based virtual credit card numbers generator or download the PC version.
  5. Select the credit card you want to connect with the virtual card.
  6. Click Generate.

Capital One has a different approach:

  1. Add Eno® from Capital One® extension for Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Firefox browsers.
  2. Click the extension and log in with your Capital One account username and password.
  3. Verify your identity and credit card account if required.
  4. Visit any shopping website. At checkout, Eno will automatically pop up and create a virtual credit card number.
  5. Add a nickname to that virtual card, such as “Walmart” or “Target”.
  6. Use the virtual card information at check out.

Compare virtual card options

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
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 14.99% to 24.99% variable)
$0
The only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
1.25x miles on all purchases
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.49%, 19.49% or 23.49% variable)
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Citi Simplicity® Card
N/A
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 16.24% to 26.24% variable)
$0
Enjoy one of the longest intro APRs on balance transfers, no late fees, no penalty rate and no annual fee.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
1.5% cash back on all purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 15.49%, 21.49% or 25.49% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 15.49% or 25.49% variable)
$0
Earn $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months.

Compare up to 4 providers

Pros and Cons of virtual credit cards

Pros

  • Secure online shopping
  • No need to get a new credit card if your virtual card is compromised
  • Can set up dollar limits and expiry 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

Cons

  • 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 who require a physical credit card as proof

Bottom line

Virtual credit cards are an awesome 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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