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Where to find a virtual debit card
Compare three different types of virtual debit cards and how to use each.
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.
Where to get a virtual debit card
There are three different ways to get a virtual debit card:
1. A prepaid 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.
2. A digital wallet
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.
3. A digital bank
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.
What is a virtual debit card?
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.
Which virtual debit card is best for me?
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|
What are the benefits of a virtual debit card?
Using a virtual debit card has a number of advantages, including:
- Security. If you’re using a virtual debit 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 debit cards available to suit your online payment needs, and you can use a prepaid card or link it to your bank account or credit provider.
- Currency options. Some providers also 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 debit card?
Keep in mind virtual debit cards may not suit everyone.
- May not work in-person. Some physical stores don’t accept contactless payments yet, so there may be restrictions on where you can use a virtual debit card that’s tied to a digital wallet.
- Card limits. Financial institutions commonly set limits for how much you can put on a contactless card in a single purchase, so keep this in mind when comparing your options.
How do I use a virtual debit card?
It depends on the type of virtual debit card you choose:
Virtual prepaid debit card
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.
Virtual debit card tied to a digital wallet
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.
Virtual debit card from a digital bank
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.
Compare accounts you can use with a virtual debit card
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.
Frequently asked questions
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