The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, July 24, 2021

Best Virtual Credit Cards of 2021

Best Virtual Credit Cards

credit card advice

Eric Bank
By: Eric Bank
Posted: December 23, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

Identity theft shows no signs of abating, which explains the usefulness of the best virtual credit cards as protective tools.

Most cardholders can access virtual account numbers these days thanks to digital wallets. Using virtual card numbers provides you with an extra layer of security without compromising your ability to pay for, return, exchange, or earn rewards on the items you buy. Normally, there is no monthly fee for generating virtual account numbers.

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Best Capital One Virtual Credit Cards

We rank Capital One on top because its Eno browser extension allows you to create a virtual number for any online merchant. You begin by clicking the Install Now button at the Eno website.

This free extension, which pops up when you visit an online checkout page, creates and saves a merchant-specific virtual card number linked to your credit card account.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Redeem on travel—including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

When prompted for your card number, Eno will fill in the virtual number instead of your regular card number. You should save your receipt in case you want to return the purchase, but otherwise, the virtual card number operates just like the real one, including earning rewards and fulfilling any signup bonus purchase requirements.

Note that only some Capital One cards offer virtual number functionality.

Best Chase Virtual Credit Cards

You can access virtual card functionality using the Chase Pay digital wallet, which stores information about all your Chase Visa consumer virtual debit credit and credit card holdings (Chase Pay doesn’t work with business credit cards or Mastercard).

To start, sign onto the Chase.com website and add Chase Pay as a virtual payment preference under Profiles & Settings. You can now choose Chase Pay at the checkout page of participating online merchants and merchant apps, although it isn’t available for in-person purchases at store checkout lines.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

No one can use your Chase Pay wallet without knowing your Chase user ID and password. When you make a purchase using Chase Pay, the mobile wallet communicates with Visa Token Service to create a unique token that replaces your card number for the online transaction, thereby protecting your real account number from exposure.

You can also use Chase Pay at selected gas stations that feature their own virtual payment apps, including Conoco, Phillips 66, Shell, and Gulf.

Best Amex Virtual Credit Cards

Amex Express Checkout was a digital wallet that allowed you to use your eligible American Express card to make online and in-app purchases. However, it’s been replaced by Click to Pay, a universal digital wallet for American Express, Discover, Visa, and Mastercard.

You can register your American Express cards with American Express Click to Pay before using the digital wallet.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CATEGORY RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn up to $400 Back in the form of statement credits: Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back - plus, earn $200 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership
  • Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year on purchases (then 1%). Also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • Earn 3% cash back on transit, including U.S. gas stations, taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
  • Access to Global Assist® Hotline - 24/7 medical, legal, financial and other select emergency assistance and coordination services
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable APR applies
  • $0 intro annual fee, $95 annual fee thereafter
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0 intro; $95 thereafter
Excellent Credit
Business Platinum Card® Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CATEGORY RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of card membership
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, 1.5X points on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more (that's an extra half point per dollar) up to 1 million additional points per calendar year, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases
  • Select one qualifying airline and get up to $200 in statement credits each calendar year for baggage fees and other incidentals charged by the airline to your Business Platinum Card®
  • Access to more than 1,300 lounges across 140 countries and counting with the American Express Global Lounge Collection®
  • Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of an eligible fare and get 35% of those points back, up to 500,000 points back per calendar year
  • $595 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A (Charge Card)
$595
Excellent
The Platinum Card® Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CATEGORY RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new card to make $6,000 in purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership
  • Earn 10X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases on your new Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Also earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels on AmexTravel.com. Earn 1X points on all other eligible purchases. Terms apply.
  • $200 annual hotel credit, $200 annual airline fee credit, $25 monthly Equinox credit, $15 monthly Uber cash credit, $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit, and more.
  • Platinum Card Members have unlimited complimentary access to all locations of The Centurion Lounge
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A (Charge Card)
$695
Excellent

When you pay with Click to Pay, the wallet substitutes a unique token for your account number, thereby limiting the information available to the merchant. Click to Pay only works at participating merchants for online and in-app transactions — you can’t use it (yet) for in-store purchases.

American Express also offers temporary virtual account numbers on newly approved cards that allow you to make card-not-present purchases until your physical card arrives.

Best Citi Virtual Credit Cards

Some Citi cards offer virtual account numbers you can use for online and mail-order purchases, with no monthly fee for the service. You must enroll with Citi before you access this feature.

Each time you want a virtual account number, you visit the Citi website and request one.

CITI® RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice! 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 and will have a fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 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.
  • 24/7 access to customer service representatives
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Citi Premier® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CITI® RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after making $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3X Points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and on air travel and hotel purchases — all other purchases earn 1X Points
  • Enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com, once per calendar year
  • Transfer ThankYou® Points to participating airline loyalty programs including TrueBlue®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, to get flights faster. There is no fee, and the minimum transfer is only 1,000 points.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 23.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent
Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CITI® RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases worldwide, including gas at Costco, for the first $7,000 per year then 1% thereafter
  • Earn 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases worldwide
  • Earn 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com, all other purchases earn 1% back
  • Extended warranty protection extends the manufacturer’s warranty so you can feel more confident when you make purchases with your Citi card
  • $0 annual fee with your paid Costco membership
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.24% Variable
$0 (Paid Costco Membership Required)
Good/Excellent

The virtual number is random and temporary, but it will appear on your monthly statement every time it’s used in a transaction. Your real Citi account number is protected from theft when you use a Citi virtual account number to make purchases.

Citi virtual numbers don’t work for in-store or in-app purchases.

Best Wells Fargo Virtual Credit Cards

Wells Fargo offers virtual credit card capability through external digital wallets, including Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay.

The setup requires you to first download the Wells Fargo Mobile app onto your smartphone and then use it to add your Wells Fargo credit card(s) to an eligible digital wallet. You’re now set to use your Wells Fargo credit card to pay for purchases made through your digital wallet.

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5
  • $0 annual fee
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
  • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% intro APR 15 months from account opening
0% intro APR 15 months from account opening
14.99%-24.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent
Wells Fargo Platinum card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • 0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 16.49% to 24.49% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum card
  • Easy access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • Monitor your spending, purchases and any suspicious activity with text and email alerts and notifications
  • Convenient tools to help create a budget and manage your spending with My Money Map
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening
0% intro APR for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers
16.49%-24.49% (Variable)
$0
Good/Excellent

You can use your digital wallet in-store or online for purchases at participating merchants. When you do so, the wallet will replace your real account number with a unique token. This prevents merchants from seeing or storing your real account number.

Best Mastercard Virtual Credit Cards

Masterpass from Mastercard was a digital wallet service that was used for virtual Mastercard account numbers or any other credit card account, including those that used competing online payment networks (i.e., Visa, American Express, or Discover).

However, the virtual Mastercard service Masterpass has evolved into Click to Pay, a universal digital wallet service collectively created by and serving the four credit card online payment networks.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Click to Pay creates a unique random token for each online transaction that takes the place of the card’s real account number. You can use Click to Pay at checkout wherever the service’s logo is displayed.

To begin, you must register one or more cards with Mastercard Click to Pay, which requires you to create and use a password or PIN by entering the card’s account number and other identifying information. Once set up, you can use Click to Pay online or in-app (but not in-store) to make purchases at participating merchants.

Best Visa Virtual Credit Cards

The Visa Checkout digital wallet was similar to Mastercard’s Masterpass, but it too has been replaced by the multinetwork Click to Pay service that lets you register credit cards or a Visa debit card. Click to Pay generates a unique token for each online or in-app transaction that replaces a card’s account number.

You register your credit cards on Visa Click to Pay and then select the website’s Click to Pay logo for your purchase.

VISA® RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

VISA® RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5
  • $0 annual fee
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
  • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% intro APR 15 months from account opening
0% intro APR 15 months from account opening
14.99%-24.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent

VISA® RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Redeem on travel—including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

You don’t need to remember your credit card information when you use Click to Pay. You simply provide the email address you registered with Click to Pay and the digital wallet does the rest.

Click to Pay offers one-click online purchasing as conveniently as its competitors (Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, etc.) do.

What is a Virtual Credit Card?

A virtual credit card is one that lets you use unique virtual account numbers (or tokens) in place of your card’s real account number when making purchases. A virtual credit card provider (e.g., Citi) issues virtual account numbers upon request. However, most virtual account numbers are created using digital wallets.

The four payment networks — American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa — use a jointly developed digital wallet called Click to Pay that you can use for your online shopping with participating merchants.

Click to Pay, along with Google Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, Apple Pay, Eno, and others, provides unique tokens to replace your card number for purchases at participating merchants. All the digital facilities for virtual account numbers work for online purchases, while some can also be used for in-app and/or in-store purchases.

How Do Virtual Credit Card Numbers Work?

The technology that implements virtual credit card numbers depends on the credit card or digital wallet you use. There are two types of virtual card numbers: those provided by the virtual credit card provider and those provided by digital wallets.

Whichever solution you choose, you must register your credit card(s) ahead of time or at checkout. You can do this online or through a mobile app.

Virtual Card Numbers from Issuers

As mentioned earlier, select Citi credit cards provide a temporary virtual number when you request one from its website. You then use the virtual account number to complete an online purchase.

Capital One Eno Virtual Card

Eno creates a merchant-specific virtual card number linked to your Capital One account.

Capital One offers its Eno browser extension through which you can request, use, lock, unlock, and delete merchant-specific Capital One virtual card numbers.

In addition, many American Express cards offer instant virtual card numbers that expire when your physical credit card arrives. You can use the virtual number for card-not-present transactions starting on the same day Amex approves your card application. You can request a virtual card number from Amex customer service.

A small number of store and co-branded cards offer virtual card numbers for instant access, including the Apple Card, Target REDcard, Amazon.com cards, and the Walmart Rewards Card. In some cases, you are issued a barcode on your receipt that allows you to use a new card at a retailer before it arrives in the mail.

Virtual Card Numbers from Digital Wallets

Nowadays, digital wallets are the main provider of virtual card numbers, in the form of numeric tokens available for single-click transactions.

The Click to Pay digital wallet is used by all four of the payment networks (American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa), meaning that any credit card can be added to a digital wallet. As of this writing, American Express has yet to enable its signup site, but your existing Amex credit cards may be automatically enrolled if they participated in the now-defunct Amex Express Checkout program. Alternatively, you can enroll your card at checkout.

You can use a digital wallet for checkout wherever the appropriate logo is displayed. You simply select the logo, enter your user ID and/or PIN, choose a credit card if you have more than one in your digital wallet, and then let the wallet do the rest of the work. The wallet will complete the transaction using a generated token in place of your account number.

When you get your monthly credit card statement, you should be able to easily identify your virtual card number transactions. Each transaction should disclose the token used as well as all the standard information.

How Do I Get a Virtual Credit Card?

A virtual credit card provider will issue you a virtual credit card number upon request.

This usually applies when you’ve been newly approved for a card and you want a temporary card number until the physical credit card arrives, although Citi offers virtual card numbers that don’t expire until you request it. Getting a virtual number requires either speaking to a customer rep or making an online request.

Digital wallets are apps that hold information about one or more credit cards (or a virtual debit card, prepaid debit card, ATM card, etc.). You register your credit cards with a digital wallet ahead of time or, in some cases, when you are making a purchase. Once registered, you can use the mobile wallet to provide a virtual card number (or numeric token) for purchase transactions.

A digital wallet’s virtual card number features works with participating merchants and is generally available for online purchases. Some wallets can also be used for in-app and/or in-store purchases.

  • Online purchase: This is a purchase you make at the checkout page of a website. Normally, you would simply enter your credit card information to complete your purchase. However, the checkout page may permit you to pay with one or more digital wallets, such as PayPal, Click to Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc., that provide virtual account numbers or tokens to replace your actual account number. A token is a unique virtual account number, usually for one-time use. However, some wallets let you reuse merchant-specific virtual account numbers. When you click on the checkout page’s wallet icon, you may be prompted for your user ID and password/PIN. After verifying your identity, the wallet completes the purchase transaction using a virtual card number/token. Your actual card details are never exposed to the merchant, making it much harder for theft to occur.
  • In-app purchase: Many apps support sales and have an in-app purchase facility. Some of these apps work with digital wallets — just click on the appropriate icon. The wallet is usually preconfigured to provide a virtual account number for the transaction.
  • In-store purchase: Some digital wallets work in the checkout line at brick-and-mortar stores. You simply tap the card reader with your smartphone instead of using your plastic credit card.

Digital wallets are increasingly being accepted in store checkout lines and mobile apps.

Which Banks Have Virtual Credit Cards?

The number of banks that offer virtual credit cards has dwindled to two: Capital One and Citi. The main reason for the near extinction of virtual bank credit cards associated with a bank account is that they are somewhat clunky to use and are redundant since virtual account number functionality is built into most digital wallets.

Because every bank-issued credit card will work with at least one digital wallet, banks have little incentive to offer their own virtual card number functionality.

Big banks Chase and Wells Fargo have decided to work with digital wallets to provide virtual card numbers. Bank of America discontinued its ShopSafe virtual credit card operation in 2019.

Where Can I Use a Virtual Visa Card?

You can use a virtual Visa card (available from Citi and Capital One) for card-not-present purchases at merchants and apps that accept Visa. Furthermore, you can use Visa Click to Pay for an online and in-app virtual card payment anywhere the Click to Pay icon is displayed.

Visa Click to Pay Icon

Virtual Visa cards can be used anywhere the Visa Click to Pay icon is displayed.

Certain digital wallet apps, including Apple Pay and Google Pay, allow you to register Visa cards and then use the wallets in brick-and-mortar stores equipped with NFC card terminals.

Are Virtual Credit Cards Legal?

Any virtual credit card that is linked to a real account is perfectly legal. In fact, virtual credit cards and virtual account numbers are excellent to have because they reduce the risk that your account number will be stolen. Virtual account numbers also allow you to use a new credit card immediately rather than waiting for it to arrive in the mail.

However, there is another form of a virtual credit card, namely a virtual card not linked to a real account. These unlinked cards are the product of credit card generator software that create account numbers in a pattern that passes verification at checkout. The same card generators used for real cards can also be used to create fake ones.

Why would someone want to create a fake virtual credit card number? In some instances, you may use one when a company requires a credit card number even though you aren’t making a purchase. In this way, you may be able to browse websites and find out whether they are legitimate before using your real credit card.

Fake cards cannot be used to purchase goods or services since they aren’t connected to any real accounts. It is illegal to attempt to use fake cards for real purchases.

For example, hotels sometimes run your credit card when you check in but don’t seek payment until you check out. It would be illegal to book a hotel stay online using a fake virtual card, especially if you planned to depart without making a virtual card payment. Hotels solve this problem by charging you daily.

The Best Virtual Credit Cards Keep Your Info Safe

Virtual credit cards, virtual account numbers, and tokens all provide a layer of security that helps to protect you from credit card fraud and identity theft. With a virtual number, the information necessary to purchase an item on your credit card is kept at arm’s distance from merchants, who only see your virtual card number.

You can assign different virtual card numbers to different merchants and place amounts and/or time limits on their use. You can also specify that a virtual card number is for a single use.

These are all strategies that make it virtually impossible for your account to fall into the wrong hands.

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