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How to protect yourself from fraud with virtual credit cards

How to protect yourself from fraud with virtual credit cards
Image source: Getty Images


In the age of online shopping, card-not-present purchases are becoming more commonplace. Virtual credit cards seem like the logical next step. But here in the UK, they haven’t really taken off just yet.

We’re here to break down what a virtual credit card is, why you might want one and what this means for fraudsters.

What is a virtual credit card?

Way more common in the US, a virtual credit card (or disposable credit card) gives you an added layer of security when shopping online.

It is basically a temporary credit card number. So you are able to make a purchase online without revealing your real card details.

A virtual card has no physical form, as you can probably guess from its name. It is linked to your credit account but it has a different card number. You can even get a ‘disposable’ credit card that has a unique card number designed for one-time use only.

Why would you want one?

If you are worried about security when shopping online, then a virtual credit card could make you feel more secure.

These cards have temporary card numbers, so your real card information is protected from fraud.

Basically, if there was a data breach at a retailer, then you are safe in the knowledge that your real account information has not been accessed.

Where can I get one?

Virtual credit cards are yet to take off in the UK in the way they have in the US. There are a few providers that offer such a service (the Revolut Prepaid Card being one), but it’s not really present in the market just yet.

Are there any downsides?

While you may read the word ‘virtual’ and feel apprehensive, there is no need to be. A virtual credit card is there to try to protect you against fraudsters, not leave you vulnerable.

The main issue is if you want a refund. As you can imagine, some retailers will only refund back to the original card details. Now, if those details are only temporary, we have a problem.

If you do use a virtual card and need a refund, you may need to speak to the retailer directly in order to highlight that the account number you used was temporary, and therefore not where you want your money refunded.

Can we expect to see more virtual credit cards?

As online shopping is only likely to grow in the future, we may start to see a demand for this type of product here in the UK. Prepaid cards and new credit card providers wanting to offer customers something different have already flirted with virtual cards before customers receive their physical card.

However, these virtual cards still maintain the same account number. This step towards introducing a temporary number doesn’t seem to be happening just yet.

But that’s not to say it won’t. Trends come and go, and with card-not-present transactions on the up, virtual credit cards may become more commonplace over the next few years.

What next?

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