A number of major credit card issuers offer the ability to instantly get a virtual credit card, including Capital One, Chase and Wells Fargo. A virtual credit card is a unique card number, expiration date and security code to use when making purchases online (and sometimes in-store). Cardholders can instantly create such a card by using the issuer’s online tool or app. The virtual card details replace the actual card information at checkout. But the purchase still gets charged to the customer’s credit card account. The point of this is that if the merchant’s records are compromised, people who gain access to those records will only have the virtual card details. That information can’t be used anywhere else. The cardholder’s real card information is safe.
Credit card issuers that offer instant virtual credit cards typically let you create one for each merchant you use. Doing so costs nothing extra. And it’s worthwhile because it adds an extra layer of security to all your transactions.
It’s also good to note that the Mastercard and Visa networks offer their own ways to make virtual payments, called Masterpass and Visa Checkout. Both of these programs support credit cards from any network. They function just like a virtual card from a credit card issuer, but anyone can sign up. Credit card issuers’ virtual card programs are limited only to their own customers.
Where to Get Instant Virtual Credit Cards:
American Express Checkout: Amex provides a unique card number at checkout that can only be used at that merchant. It can only be used at select merchants like Walmart, Staples, Sears and Avis.
Capital One Eno: Lets you create a different virtual card number for each merchant. You can fill this information in instead of your regular card number at any website.
Chase Pay: Gives a virtual card for both online and in-store purchases wherever the Chase Pay logo appears. Places that accept it include Shop Rite, Best Buy, GAP, Walmart and Shell.
Citi Virtual Account Numbers: Available on some Citi cards. Log in to your Citi account to see if you are eligible. It generates unique card information to use at any merchant’s online checkout.
Wells Fargo Wallet: Works for payment at millions of participating merchants online and in-person. It offers a unique number to replace your actual credit card info during payment.
Masterpass: Allows people with cards from any network to shop online with a unique number for each merchant. Participating merchants include Dunkin Donuts, Office Depot and Walgreens.
Visa Checkout: Supports credit cards from any network and provides a unique payment token when checking out online. Participating merchants include Walmart, Staples and Marriott.
In an age of big data breaches and more and more advanced forms of fraud, it’s a good idea to be a step ahead by getting an instant virtual credit card whenever you shop online.
Not all credit card companies are fully embracing virtual card numbers, though. For example, Bank of America had a virtual card number program called Shop Safe but discontinued it in September 2019. Fortunately, there are several virtual wallet services that you can join no matter which bank or credit union issued your credit card.
If you’re wondering instead about credit cards that you can instantly use online after being approved for an account, there are a few good options. They include credit cards from Capital One and American Express, among others.