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Debit cards give you convenient access to funds in your checking account. And virtual debit cards let you do that without a physical card online or by using your smartphone at the checkout.
There are three different ways to get a virtual debit card:
The first type of virtual debit card is just a number that you use to securely shop online — it’s usually linked to a prepaid account. These card numbers remain active for certain periods of time or can only be used for certain websites, so they are more secure than using a single debit card for all of your online shopping.
The second type of virtual debit card is a version of your debit card that exists in a digital wallet, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or a 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. You can also use it to withdraw cash at a cardless ATM.
Some digital banks assign you a virtual debit card immediately after your application is approved, so you can start using it while you wait on your physical card to come in the mail. Most virtual cards have a different number than your physical debit card, so you can easily cancel it if it gets compromised.
A virtual debit card is essentially a digital version of a plastic debit or prepaid card. Most have randomly generated numbers for added security when shopping online or over the phone. If the number is compromised, you can quickly cancel the virtual card and generate a new number without losing access to your entire account.
This table highlights the different types of virtual debit cards and which type might be best for you:
|Type of virtual debit card||Best for||Popular accounts|
|Virtual prepaid debit card||Those who want to preload money onto a virtual card for online and over-the-phone shopping|
|Virtual debit card tied to a digital wallet||Those who want to use a virtual card in-person or to withdraw cash from a cardless ATM|
|Virtual debit card from a digital bank||Those who want their virtual card to be tied to a bank account used for spending and saving|
Using a virtual debit card has a number of advantages, including:
Keep in mind virtual debit cards may not suit everyone.
It depends on the type of virtual debit card you choose:
If you choose a virtual prepaid 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.
If you opt for a virtual debit card that can be loaded into a digital wallet, you’ll need to have a checking 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.
To use a virtual debit card from a digital bank, all you need to do is apply for the account. Once you’re approved, you’ll get a virtual debit card number that you can start using immediately. Depending on the bank, you may be able to connect this virtual card number to a digital wallet for in-person purchases.
Use this interactive table to compare banks with cardless ATMs:
Virtual debit cards are quickly gaining in popularity, but it’ll be a while before contactless cards are accepted everywhere. If you’re interested in using one, compare bank accounts to find one with virtual and contactless card options.
Image source: Getty Images
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