Virtual Credit Cards - Is now the time to get one?

S.F. Ehrlich Associates |

If you or a family member have never been the victim of credit card fraud, pat yourself on the back. But don’t get too confident; your day is probably coming. (Kiplinger’s cites an industry survey that says 65% of debit and credit card holders have had at least one fraudulent charge on their account.1) To say credit card fraud is rampant is an understatement.

The time and energy required to replace a credit card due to fraudulent activity is extensive, but it is even more time-consuming if the card in question is used for automatic payments. To fight back against credit card fraud, many credit card companies now offer virtual credit cards. If you haven’t used that protection, you may want to consider doing so.

The benefits2:

  • A virtual card does not have the same number as your actual credit card. Rather, it’s a number your credit card company knows is linked to your card but not known by the retailer. You won't be impacted if a retailer where you shopped gets hacked and your virtual card number is stolen.
  • Virtual cards can help manage subscriptions, provided they expire prior to the subscription renewal date. (Consider how many cable channels you are currently subscribing to.)
  • In the same regard, if you have children who subscribe to online games, using virtual credit cards ensures an end date.

The limitations:

  • If you use a virtual credit card to make a purchase and you want to return the item, the store will not be able to refund the original form of purchase. (If you were to hand them your credit card for credit, that number will not match the virtual card number that was used to make the purchase.) Rather, you may be given a store credit.
  • Virtual credit cards are probably not good for places where you may have to present your card to confirm a reservation, such as at a hotel.

Some virtual credit cards are for single use, while others can be used for a fixed amount of time. To use them, you may have to log into your credit card’s website. (Capital One allows for the use of a virtual credit card through a browser extension, Eno, that does not require a separate login. In fact, Eno even remembers the virtual credit card number used for each merchant so that number can be reused.)

To learn more about credit cards, go online to find out what your card issuer provides. Yes, credit card safety may take a little more time, but those few minutes will pale in comparison to the time you’ll spend cleaning up the mess if your primary credit card is compromised.



1 Vincent, Ella. “Virtual Credit Cards Offer More Security.” Kiplinger Personal Finance, Mar. 2024.
2 “The Pros and Cons of Virtual Credit Cards.” The Wall Street Journal, 27 Nov. 2023.



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