Virtual credit cards: Pros and cons

Martin Beckett
Jul 19, 2007
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Credit card fraud is increasing in magnitude proportional to the widespread use and availability of credit cards. To counteract this menace credit card companies have devised a new way. Popularly called the virtual credit card, this is an arrangement where the actual details of credit card holder are hidden and a virtual credit card number is issued for online shopping, which expire within a short period of time, usually a month or so. These virtual credit card numbers are mostly single-use, meaning that they expire after they are used once.

The process of getting a virtual credit card number is simple, it requires your credit card details and can be issued for a particular amount. Once considered, a relatively techie concept the virtual credit cards are fast becoming popular. There are various pros and cons to virtual credit cards. Here are few of them.


The virtual credit card number is a very safe option and is issued for a single use only.

The virtual credit cards are site specific and payment specific, so they are not transferable. This makes them of no use to hackers since they can't use these numbers anywhere except for the desired purpose.

The identity and actual credit card number is completely protected and threat of identity theft are absolutely minimal.

The purchase made by any virtual credit card number is reflected in the customers credit card bill like any other purchase.

The virtual credit card number builds more confidence in online shoppers, because their fears of identity theft and privacy considerations are done away with.

Virtual credit cards are a great way to beat the hackers and online thieves at their own game.


Virtual credit card concept is gaining popularity fast but it still is not that widely accepted, and users are accepting it at their own pace.

Virtual credit card numbers become useless where the personal details are absolutely essential with the purchase as in the case of airline tickets, movie tickets, hotel reservations, car rental etc.

Similarly, if you want to pay recurring expenses such as monthly subscriptions you'll need a new virtual credit card number every time because the old one will expire. Thus, the companies who want to bill you on a recurring basis will prefer regular credit card numbers.

If you have multiple credit cards from different providers, getting virtual credit card numbers and tracking them down for expiry dates and usability will add to your existing burden.

In short virtual credit card numbers are not without their drawbacks, but the safety, privacy and convenience they offer brings a great peace of mind.