What’s a virtual card, and how does it secure your online payments?

Guy Bauman

November 12, 2023

  • # Biometric Security
  • # Phishing Protection
  • # Payment Protection

Tech-savvy consumers understand that each digital transaction introduces various cybersecurity risks, like phishing scams and hacked information. A virtual card is what puts many of these concerns at bay, offering a convenient way to pay while protecting financial data online. Gone are the days of fretting over leaked credit card information. With virtual card numbers, your financial privacy is no longer at stake with each online purchase.

Decoding virtual cards

Virtual cards, or masked credit cards, conceal your actual credit card details from online platforms for safer online transactions. You’re granted a unique, digit-only number that replaces real credit card details to reduce the risk of losing sensitive information to common cyber-threats like phishing or fake shopping sites.

Some common threats virtual cards protect you from

Masking sensitive information such as credit card numbers aims to spare you from the following threats:

  • Phishing scams: When you click on a phishing link, you could land on a fraudulent site designed to steal your credit card information. Using a virtual card protects you from entering your real credit card information.

  • Data breaches: When you store your real card info on a shopping platform, you risk losing these details, along with other personally identifiable information, during a data breach. 

Virtual cards versus regular cards

The key difference between virtual and regular credit cards is that the former offers more robust digital security and privacy. Inputting your actual card details onto a form website or over the phone introduces risks like identity theft, credit card theft and successful phishing scams. But virtual cards hide these details, offering more peace of mind. Here are a few more ways these cards offer increased security: 

  • Short-term use: Unlike a regular card, a virtual credit card's number is short-term. Once it's served its purpose, you can “discard” it, significantly reducing the risk of fraud.

  • Customizations: You can set spending limits and expiration dates, giving you a tailored and controlled experience.

  • Single-merchant use: Often, you can lock a virtual card to a single merchant, making it useless if stolen and used elsewhere, thus protecting the issuer's interests and yours.

  • Ease of subscription management: When you use a virtual card to sign up for a subscription or newsletter, you can set the expiry on the card, or the amount of the annual subscription, so you don’t incur payments without your knowledge — these payments simply won’t go through until you update this information.

  • No physical copy: You can’t lose or have someone steal a virtual card number, further bolstering its cybersecurity efficacy. 

Virtual cards versus digital wallets

While both are modern warriors in the battle against cyber insecurity, virtual cards and digital wallets differ in important ways. 

Virtual cards offer single-use security, where each transaction is assigned a unique card number, making it a one-and-done deal for added security. And these cards can also directly connect to your bank account without exposing your real account numbers. Some advanced services like IronVest even allow you to fund them with a credit card.

Digital wallets are more comprehensive and less single-use, storing multiple information types, like credit card numbers and loyalty codes, in one easily accessible place. These wallets offer contactless convenience. If you’ve added a virtual card to Apple Pay or some other digital wallet platform, you simply tap your phone or smartwatch at the terminal. Not all virtual cards can be used in-store, though, as some platforms only offer online-use cards.

How to get a virtual credit card in 5 steps

Obtaining a virtual card number is a straightforward process, especially with providers like IronVest prioritizing a seamless user experience. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Select a provider: Opt for a trusted provider like IronVest, known for its comprehensive digital security solutions for both consumers and financial institutions.

  2. Register and link accounts: Sign up with the provider, complete the necessary identity verification, and link your bank accounts or credit cards (but remember: Not all virtual credit card services allow you to fund virtual cards with a credit card).

  3. Generate your card: Use the provider’s app or browser extension to instantly generate a new virtual card number.

  4. Customize card settings: Adjust the settings to match your spending preferences, including limits and merchant-specific usage.

  5. Use your virtual card: Whether you’re wondering how to use a virtual Visa card or one for any other credit card type, the process is the same — simply copy or autofill your virtual card number with the browser extension or mobile app.

Final considerations when getting a virtual credit card

Before diving in and enjoying the convenience and security these cards provide, weigh these essential factors to ensure you make an informed decision:

  • Spending habit compatibility: Understand the limitations of using a virtual card, like geographic or site-type restrictions.

  • Security features: Investigate the security measures in place, looking for providers that offer advanced protection, such as IronVest's biometric fraud prevention.

  • Fees and limits: Understand any associated fees and spending limits that may be imposed on your virtual card.

  • Customer support: Consider the level of customer service provided, as in the event of an issue, you’ll want reliable and accessible support.

Secure your digital transactions with IronVest

Yes — IronVest offers customizable virtual cards. But why stop there? For 360° digital life protection, add biometric password protection and masked emails, phone numbers, and payment details with IronVest’s all-encompassing digital security platform. Get IronVest today and experience the peace of mind that comes with actually robust digital defenses.

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