How a virtual credit card can help protect your identity

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Virtual credit cards are the latest of many solutions to the issue of online privacy. With the rise of online payments for everything from medical bills to birthday gifts, consumers aren’t just concerned about protecting their personal information on the web — they’re also worried about safeguarding their financial details. 

In fact, when compared with security, medical, and contact information, 78% of consumers said they were most concerned about losing control over their financial information, according to the 2019 RSA Data Privacy and Security survey

Online and mobile payments have contributed to this fear. According to the 2019 Thales Data Threat Report, the top privacy concerns for mobile payments apps include account takeover, account fraud, and the potential exposure of personally identifiable information (PII) other than credit card information. 

Though making purchases and paying bills online is fast and convenient, it’s not always private. Sharing your credit card information over the internet can make you more vulnerable to potential identity theft and data breaches. Even if you use different passwords to prevent fraudsters from hacking into your accounts, you still have to worry about entrusting online merchants with your credit card information. If the companies you buy from don’t have strong privacy and security systems, then they can’t protect your information from breaches and misuse.

A growing number of consumers are losing trust in the companies that facilitate their online payments. A 2018 survey from IBM found that 78% of U.S. respondents think a company’s ability to protect users’ personal information is extremely important, but only 20% of people completely trust the organizations they give their information to.

If your credit card information is exposed in a data breach, not only does this compromise your finances, it puts other forms of PII at risk, too. Someone can use your financial details to retrieve a wide range of sensitive information, including your passwords, email address, phone number, social security number, home address, employer, and purchase history. 

Protecting your financial information is paramount, but you don’t have to give up online shopping to do it. Payment privacy solutions like virtual credit cards can help. 

What is a virtual credit card?

A virtual credit card is a temporary credit card number you can use to make online purchases. Depending on who issues your virtual credit card, you’ll either receive a randomly generated number that expires after a single use, or a number you can use for multiple purchases. 

Virtual credit cards are designed to give you more privacy and protection over your actual credit card account. Instead of providing online vendors with your real credit card number, expiration date, and security code, you can simply use the virtual credit card as a replacement. To merchants and hackers, your virtual credit card is indistinguishable from a regular credit card. And, when you’re reviewing the purchases you made using your virtual credit card, transactions show up as they normally would. 

Depending on the issuer, you may also be able to set an expiration date or maximum charge amount on your card. The best part, though, is that any time you see that your virtual credit card has been compromised in a breach or fraud attempt, you can simply close the account. You won’t have to cancel your actual credit card account or get a new credit card issued. 

Using a virtual credit card in tandem with other privacy measures, like a masked email address, can boost your privacy even more. Similar to masked credit cards, masked email addresses hide your personal information from merchants, while still allowing you to fill out forms and receive important messages.

However, despite their benefits, virtual credit cards don’t offer a foolproof guarantee against fraud. Using a virtual credit card can help keep your financial information more private, but it’s still important to regularly check your bank accounts to make sure you have no fraudulent charges. 

Where to get a virtual credit card

Several national banks offer virtual credit card programs, but there are also private companies that offer virtual credit card services. If you go through your bank, you can typically use your online banking portal to access your virtual credit card. Independent organizations, on the other hand, may require you to log into a separate account to make purchases. Here are three major banks that offer virtual credit cards:

1) Bank of America: Bank of America’s ShopSafe service is available to any Bank of America Visa or Mastercard holders who use online banking. There’s no fee or commitment to access your virtual credit card, and you can set your card’s expiration date for up to one year from when you validate it. There’s also a feature that lets you pay recurring monthly bills and subscriptions with your virtual credit card. 

2) Citibank: Citibank’s Virtual Account Number service is included with certain Citi credit cards. You can either choose a spending limit and expiration date for your virtual credit card, or simply generate a one-time credit card number. 

3) Capital One: Capital One offers virtual credit card numbers to certain Capital One credit card holders through their Eno app. Eno, a virtual assistant, generates unique credit card numbers for each online merchant you buy from. You can view your virtual credit card numbers and transactions in the app any time, and either lock or cancel a particular number if you think your account has been compromised. 

If you can’t apply for a virtual credit card through your bank, another option is to use a digital wallet like Google Pay and Apple Pay. Neither solution is a virtual credit card, but both let you make transactions without giving merchants your credit card information.

Better privacy creates a better online experience

Having more control over your online privacy can create a better, freer online experience. If you want more protection over your general personal information, a privacy app can help. FigLeaf is an all-in-one tool designed to put privacy back in your hands. 

With FigLeaf, you can mask your email address, browse the internet using a private Wi-Fi connection, block trackers, see who has access to your personal information, and set the level of privacy you want wherever you go online. We know privacy is a personal choice — you may want to be visible one day and hidden the next — so you can change your mind as often as you want. 
FigLeaf’s own masked payments solution is coming soon. Visit our site to read our privacy philosophy and learn more about all your privacy options.

Author: FigLeaf Team