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Virtual Credit Cards: A Guide

Aug 17, 2007
If you are someone who enjoys shopping online but are concerned about the safety of your credit card details, then you should consider getting a virtual credit card. This new type of card is designed specifically for making purchases online, and aims to keep your credit card details safe. If you want to know more about virtual credit cards, then here are some tips about their relative benefits and drawbacks.

What are virtual credit cards?

Virtual credit cards are similar to real credit cards in that they you use the card to make purchases. However, they differ from normal credit cards by being simply usable online and disposable. With a virtual credit card, you use a number only once, which expires within one or two months. Each time you shop online you are given a different number to use.

Who offers virtual cards?

Most major credit card issuers will offer virtual cards. They work like other prepaid cards, and the limit is set by how much money you put on the card. In this way it works similar to a gift voucher or other online payment tool. Names for the cards differ, with MasterCard calling them MasterCard Gift Cards and Visa calling them Virtual Visa Gift Cards.

Not worth it for hackers

The biggest advantage of these virtual cards is that obtaining the details of the card are not worth their time, because the number can only be used for one specific purchase and the number expires very quickly. This makes virtual credit cards much more secure than normal cards, and deters hackers from trying to steal your number. In the unlikely event that your number is stolen, you are covered for unauthorised purchases just as you would be with a normal credit card.

Convenience

Obviously, another advantage is that these cards are convenient to use, because everything is stored online. There is no need to run around looking for your card number to input the details. All you need to do is click the mouse a few times and you will have completed your purchase.

Limited use

Although these cards are very secure and convenient, they are of very limited use. Although they are not meant for offline use, there are also online services that they cannot be used for. Booking concert or airline tickets is of no use, as is pre-ordering items such as CDs or books. This is because you need to have a physical card to carry out some of these tasks, or a card number that does not expire quickly. Although some virtual card issuers do offer longer expiry dates, the cards are still very limited in their scope.

Are they worth it?

Although virtual credit cards are limited in their scope, if you regularly purchase items online then they are a more secure way of shopping. If you do not want to risk your regular card online, then get a virtual card for safer online shopping.
About the Author
Peter Kenny is a writer for The Thrifty Scot, please visit us at 0% credit cards and Reclaim Bank Charges
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