Why Virtual Credit Card Numbers Aren't Worth It

stack of credit cards

Virtual credit card numbers are designed to keep your banking information safe when you shop online. While they can offer a sense of security if you're worried about hacking, they're not always a perfect solution. We take a look at why you shouldn't use virtual credit card numbers.

Bank data breaches seems to make headlines every other day and having your credit card information stolen can create a number of financial issues. Using a temporary card number can keep your data out of the hands of identity thieves.

Bank of America and Citibank both offer customers the option to use a virtual number when completing transactions online. Bank of America calls it ShopSafe while Citi card's Virtual Account number makes an account number "virtually impossible to steal" while shopping online.

 Bank of America ShopSafe Service
If you are a Bank of America customer, you can use "ShopSafe" by signing in to your online account.

These numbers are generated randomly and you have the option of setting a maximum charge amount and an expiration date so it can only be used for a set amount of time. That sounds pretty foolproof but if you use virtual card numbers or you're thinking of trying it out, there are some potential problems you need to be aware of. Here's why virtual credit card numbers aren't worth it.

Verifying transactions can be a headache

There are a couple of situations where using a virtual credit card number can be a nuisance if you need to verify your account information.

If you're reserving a hotel room online, for example, you'll be asked to present your card once you show up in person. The same goes if you're trying to rent a car. If the hotel or rental agency's policy requires you to pay with the same card that you booked your reservation with, that virtual card number suddenly becomes a stumbling block.

Plan on jumping through hoops for returns

Typically, when you buy something online you have to return it the same way and the merchant just credits the refund back to the card you used at checkout. If you used a virtual account number, getting your money back isn't as clear-cut. Depending on the retailer's policy, you may have to accept a gift card or check in lieu of having the money put directly back on your card.

That's inconvenient to say the least and it can become even more so if the merchant requires you to provide additional documentation to make sure that you're actually the one made the purchase in the first place.

Keeping your original receipt and making note of the number you used may cut down on some of the hassle but you could still end up waiting longer than you normally would for a refund to be processed.

Transactions can still go through after the number expires

Virtual card numbers can be used one time only or you can an expiration date for up to 12 months in the future. Once the card number expires, any additional charges that are applied against it should be denied, but that's not always the case. For example, if you set up a recurring payment with a virtual card number, it could still show up on your credit card statement regardless of when it expired.

On the flip side, you've got another problem if payment isn't processed correctly because the temporary number is no longer active. If that happens, you've now got to go to the trouble of updating your card information or getting a new virtual number, not to mention you may be get hit with a late fee for the missed payment.

Virtual credit card numbers are free to use but you may pay a price in terms of convenience. Image via Shutterstock
Virtual credit card numbers are free to use but you may pay a price in terms of convenience.

They only work online

If you spend a lot of time shopping online, using a virtual number can make you feel secure but they don't eliminate the possibility of your card being hacked when you hit the gas pump or shop at your favorite stores.

Once you've swiped your card through the reader at the checkout, retailers have your information which means hackers can get it too, if they're savvy enough. Home Depot, Michael's and Staples serve as lessons on how easy it is for your credit or debit card number to be compromised.

They don't offer any additional liability protection

If someone steals your credit card number and uses it to make fraudulent charges, the most you're responsible for is $50. That means if an identity thief runs up a $10,000 credit card bill, you won't be responsible for paying it off.

Using a virtual credit card number doesn't give you any additional liability protection and if the temporary number is stolen, you'll still have to go through the same dispute process to avoid paying the price for any unauthorized transactions. Tip: Opt for credit over debit whenever possible to minimize your fraud liability. If you wait too long to report a stolen debit card to your bank, you may have no way to recover any money the thief makes off with.

Final thoughts

While virtual credit card numbers can act as a buffer between hackers and your banking information, using them isn't always convenient. Adding your credit or debit cards to Apple Pay can shield your account numbers and you have the added benefit of being able to use these apps online or in the store. Unless you're just extremely skittish about entering your card information online, using a temporary number may be more trouble than it's worth. For another take on this topic, read more if virtual account numbers may in fact be worth it for you.

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Ask a Question

Friday, 06 Sep 2019 1:32 AM
<p>She got her wish, Bank of America is pulling the plug on ShopSafe! Too bad, I REALLY thought it was a fantastic help you sleep feature. Benefits far outweigh the pitfalls. I would also imagine that it saved the bank money too as it reduced fraud claims in which THEY would have to reimburse the card user. Are they really too cheap to develop a system that does not use Flash Player? They waste sooooo much money on stupid things like "Erica" on their Android App and many many other useless junk. Why???</p>
Thursday, 05 Sep 2019 8:19 PM
<p>Rebecca - your article is not of fact. Its obvious you have not used these services. Were you bored or having a tiff with a credit card company to try and put a hack on a great idea. I have been using ShopSafe with BOA for 20 years and have never had trouble returning any items. the card number stay open for a credit but shuts down for a debt. I also put the exact amount in for my purchase. There is a window where you can see your purchases and in this window you can see that vendors given the ShopSafe numbers have actually tried to re-charge your number, but it is stuck since it will not process. I've booked numerous hotel rooms with ShopSafe numbers and there is not a problem when you check in, nor is it a problem with rental cars, airlines, etc. Your physical credit card is tied to the one you gave them online. I realize its 1 year after your article was published but i am just seeing it for the 1st time today as I received a notice from BOA they are shutting down ShopSafe, based on they feel the security levels are high and it is not an issued. I disbelieve this 100%, its more like they have so many credit card numbers tied to one main card their system does not like it.</p>
Thursday, 13 Jun 2019 9:39 PM
<p>That was my thoughts exactly!</p>
Thursday, 13 Jun 2019 9:38 PM
<p>I cannot agree with you. ShopSafe is incredibly useful and SAFE. You are a little bit off with your ideas.</p>
Thursday, 16 May 2019 6:26 AM
<p>Very interesting unsafe VCC issue? Well...I’ve been using Pay Pal and other VCC for years. No problem. Now all my CC/VCC work just fine with my Apple Pay and Apple watch. I travel oversea a lot. It’s hassle free save my time. Perhaps I’m only lucky one here? Have you ever been to Singapore the most fascinate city in the world when come to hi tech security concern. US is no match yet SG is a pin size city!!<br>Read on:</p><p>Does Bank of America protect my virtual cards?</p><p>Yes. Just like your physical credit and debit cards, your Bank of America virtual credit and debit cards are covered by Bank of America’s $0 Liability Guarantee<br>Footnote<br>1. Bank of America will credit any fraudulent charges made with your physical or virtual credit or debit card back to your account. The $0 Liability Guarantee covers fraudulent purchases and payments made by others using your Bank of America physical or virtual credit and debit cards. If you suspect fraudulent use of your virtual credit or debit card, please contact us immediately by calling the number on the back of your card. <br>You should receive access to funds by the next business day in most cases, pending resolution of your claim. Please consult your customer and account agreements for full details.</p><p>Anyway, Thank you for your advice. If I have any problem with VCC issue.<br>I will let you know 😉</p>
Monday, 08 Apr 2019 3:11 PM
<p>Online transactions is the entire point of virtual cards. I will never enter the number from a physical card for any online purchase. A virtual number works only at one merchant. And if the merchant's database is compromised, you can cancel and reissue a virtual number instantly, and not have to wait for a new physical card to be mailed.</p>
Saturday, 23 Mar 2019 4:29 PM
<p>I find virtual card numbers to be very useful in certain situations. Sometimes I want to purchase something from a small online retailer but I don't know them and/or suspect their security standards may not be the greatest. In these scenarios I'll use a virtual card number for my purchase... if their database gets exposed I don't need to worry about my real card number floating around on the dark web. It's not so much about the monetary risk... your card-member agreement protects you there... it's about avoiding the hassle of having to update my card info at all the places where I have recurring payments set up.</p>
Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 6:33 PM
<p>Wow, so much misinformation in this article. I use citi virtual account numbers, and can confirm the following:</p><p>* There's never any problem getting a refund even after a number has expired. Only new charges are disallowed.</p><p>* Merchants can't stick you with unexpected charges after the virtual card number has expired or you have canceled it. That said, if the authorization goes through while the card is still valid, then they can charge you after you cancel the number, but this is not a surprise. You can see pending charges in your account online.</p><p>* They don't offer additional liability protection in the strict sense that your card already has liability protection, but they save you an enormous hassle. E.g., google "DecorMyEyes nytimes" to hear about how unscrupulous vendors can use the last four digits of your real credit card number to withdraw disputes on your behalf.</p><p>* Virtual account numbers work just fine over the phone or anyplace you don't need a physical credit card.</p><p>The only thing that is correct here is that there are situations where you need a physical credit card to pick up tickets, in which case you can't do that with virtual account numbers.</p><p>Equally problematic about this article is that it doesn't mention one of the biggest benefits of virtual account numbers, which is that they let you sign up for services that require autorenewal without worrying about the autorenewal. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out how to disable autorenew, or you might not want autorenew--E.g., maybe you sign up for consumer reports for a year because you are thinking of buying a car, but don't want an ongoing subscription. Consumer reports does not offer an option not to autorenew, but with the virtual account numbers you can get only one year of service without having to remember to jump through hoops in 12 months.</p>
Saturday, 15 Dec 2018 4:26 PM
<p>How much were you paid by banks or credit card companies to write this or are you simply that ignorant? Your arguments silly token arguments of no real merit and don't address why these cards are even used. This article is an embarrassment to humanity and only promotes ignorance for any fool on the planet that thinks a static number in this day and age is anyway acceptable. The current state of credit cards, bank accounts, government identity is horrendous and filled with static numbers that are breached time and time again. Thank gawd at least 2 banks out there have the common decency to apply at-least 1 basic step against static card information fraud.</p>
Sunday, 25 Nov 2018 2:02 PM
<p>Strange. I find these temp numbers profoundly useful. Have been using shopsafe for over a decade.</p><p>I use it constantly when making purchases at websites I don't entirely trust OR with vendors that set me up for an auto subscription. Since the temp number has a hard limit, it prohibits the vendor from auto-billing me (e.g. maybe I forget to cancel before 30 days is up). I've also made some one-time purchases and set up for subscriptions that were damn near impossible to cancel, and yet I'll see attempt after attempt to bill me again but since they hit the ceiling, shopsafe rejects it. Love it.</p>
Saturday, 20 Oct 2018 7:25 PM
<p>Even worse, the Citicard version either requires Windows or Flash. Flash has been on the way out for a decade or more now.</p>
Tuesday, 25 Sep 2018 12:22 AM
<p>Yes, any nitwit can sit down at the keyboard, I guess... this article is basically useless, and it's about 3 minutes of my life that I'll never get back...</p>
Tuesday, 24 Jul 2018 6:08 PM
<p>Do you understand the word "troll"?</p>
Tuesday, 24 Jul 2018 6:04 PM
<p>Exactly what minok1217 says below. My old mastercard was comprised three times in two years. I switched to virtual card numbers now so if it ever happens again, I'll just have that one virtual card number to worry about instead of losing credit card capability entirely for some unknown amount of time plus having to go through all the account update crap at each vendor where I use it a lot.</p>
Wednesday, 18 Jul 2018 5:26 PM
<p>Virtual numbers are assume, especially when they are used properly and with the understanding of how they work. I love being able to cancel a virtual card shortly after when the vendor pisses me off. I agree with Tom. The Virtual numbers limit your exposure so you don't have to deal with replacement cards or updating other vendors.</p>
Wednesday, 27 Jun 2018 12:47 PM
<p>That has NOT been the case with my VISA cards. Every time one of my ShopSafe numbers has been compromised, VISA cancels the real card and send another plastic one to replace it. Every time. I asked a representative about the advantage of having a virtual number and they said it would protect the plastic card, period.</p><p> Additionally, I've had my virtual numbers rejected 40% of the time for no apparent reason. Yesterday, I tried to pay my home insurance online and the number was rejected. Perhaps it had to do with the way the site processed the number, but I ended up sending a check in the mail after spending several hours trying to correct the issue.</p><p> I will continue to use virtual numbers, since I do a lot of online shopping, but they ARE a PITA, for sure.</p>
Sunday, 27 May 2018 3:18 PM
<p>This article is garbage written by a clueless shill and full of misinformation. They cannot charge you once the virtual card expires. These cards are fantastic and guard against all those data breaches. Never give a company real information unless you have to. Use a fake name. Keep as much info off the internet as possible.</p>
Tuesday, 22 May 2018 10:13 PM
<p>Yeah, so it facilitates you breaking a contract.. thats not really a selling point.</p>
Tuesday, 22 May 2018 10:08 PM
<p>Because when one finds fraud on the statement the Banks do the thing best for them (worst for the customer) and close the whole card number and issue a brand new one - which means we now have to go and manually update the card/expiry/code everywhere we use the card (amazon, power bill, water bill, etc) If we can assign unique numbers to each regular subscription vendor - then a compromise of one number only affects THAT one number, not the entire mess. But Chase is backwards and doesn't offer me the virtual solution.<br>Here in the US we still use magnetic stripe at many places (the vendor assumes the liability in case of fraud) - but in all cases of fraud, the customer has a lot of mess to clean up. In the US credit cards are use MUCH more frequently than in Europe - here many of us use it for EVERYTHING we purchase - I've not used cash in years. Cup of coffee, order from amazon, groceries, fast food, pizza, airline tickets, my electric bill, its all paid by credit card, which then gets paid once a month by me via bank transfer. <br>Europe, on the other hand, is still mostly a cash based economy, which means folks have to carry around a lot of cash, and you have a more usable bank transfer system in the EU than we ever had in the US, where transfers are a pain to do, and carry other liabilities we don't want (like correcting a false charge doesn't get you your money back near as quick).</p>
Monday, 23 Apr 2018 7:51 PM
<p>Limit the damage for whom? Seems like for the banks.</p>
Monday, 23 Apr 2018 7:49 PM
<p>I don't see why one should take the trouble going through virtual numbers etc when all it takes is to check the monthly statements for accuracy. One can find zero liability credit cards and fraud detection is pretty good in the US, I understand. Here in Europe we also have to use a pin as an added security. Virtual cards etc seem to be good for protecting the banks.</p>
Monday, 23 Apr 2018 12:14 AM
<p>Joe, get over it, the hotel can rent the room to someone else. Happens all the time. How do we know they didn't?</p>
Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 4:46 PM
<p>Actually, I could see using a VAN as a *default* card for those sites, though. Especially one like Amazon that keeps pushing you to activate "OneClick" (a disaster in more ways than one) or Prime membership. Just in case you manage to miss their intentionally-hidden opt-out links, setting up a VAN with a minuscule limit should prevent them from charging you for something you *didn't* want.</p>
Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 4:39 PM
<p>That's basically my interest in VANs, since I'll want to try out some product/service/subscription for a short time, but not have to worry about missing a cancellation date for the next month. If I deem it to be worth continuing, I'll switch to a permanent number.</p>
Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 4:37 PM
<p>I have seen sites that will refuse to accept gift cards, most likely because they have every intention of charging your card monthly for all eternity. Of course, I consider that a warning sign that they are going to give me grief if I decide to cancel a subscription if it turns out not worth keeping, so I'll avoid doing business with them.</p>
Monday, 16 Apr 2018 5:00 PM
<p>Besides the being hyper focused on the trivial issues, their headline makes the unsubstantiated conclusion that "Virtual Credit Card Numbers Aren't Worth It". Not a balanced analysis at all... just more click bait...</p>
Monday, 16 Apr 2018 4:56 PM
<p>That was pretty slimy of you! You made an agreement and then didn't honor it. How would you have felt if you had showed up and they didn't have a room for you?</p>
Wednesday, 11 Apr 2018 4:04 AM
<p><i>Typically, when you buy something online you have to return it the same way and the merchant just credits the refund back to the card you used at checkout. If you used a virtual account number, getting your money back isn't as clear-cut. Depending on the retailer's policy, you may have to accept a gift card or check in lieu of having the money put directly back on your card.</i><br>False. You will be refunded for the transaction and you will see the refund in your credit card's transaction history. In fact, you will receive the refund <b>even if</b> the virtual number expires. Why? Because it's a virtual number tied to your account. That's the whole point. The card expiring does not mean you are out the money if a merchant sends you a refund, and the balance on your virtual cards is also virtual, simply tied to your account.</p><p><i>If someone steals your credit card number and uses it to make fraudulent charges, the most you're responsible for is $50. That means if an identity thief runs up a $10,000 credit card bill, you won't be responsible for paying it off.</i><br>You're missing the point. Virtual credit cards lock to the merchant, so it is literally impossible for a thief to use your credit card. Moreover, <b>not even the merchant</b> can overcharge your virtual credit card beyond the limits you set. If you generated the virtual credit card with a set balance of $5.00. Then any charges beyond the $5.00 specified will bounce and cannot be charged to your card. The biggest benefit of virtual cards is being able to use them on sites where you are concerned the merchant could steal your credit card information or would be vulnerable to hackers. You will always have fraud protection, but virtual numbers provide an added layer of convenience and prevent issues before they happen and without you needing to lose a single penny. Another area where virtual numbers are very useful is when you are signing up for trials or subscription services. If you forget to cancel, you cannot be charged.</p><p><i>While virtual credit card numbers can act as a buffer between hackers and your banking information, using them isn't always convenient. Adding your credit or debit cards to Apple Pay can shield your account numbers.</i><br>This is incredibly ironic since Android Pay uses virtual numbers in order to shield your information and prevent it from being stolen. Same with Samsung Pay.</p>
Saturday, 31 Mar 2018 12:10 AM
<p>Last year I used a Citibank virtual number for a hotel reservation. When I had to change plans at the last minute and cancel the reservation, the hotel informed me that since I had not cancelled within their 24-hour time limit, I was responsible for one nights rental, a charge of $225. One month later, I received a call from an employee at the headquarters of the hotel chain demanding that I give them a valid credit card number because my previous one had, in their words, "bounced". I politely declined, and hung up. If the expiration date feature of Citibank virtuals isn't the greatest thing in banking, I just don't know what is.</p>
Monday, 26 Mar 2018 2:21 PM
<p>Sheesh. I agree with the other countering comments. I use Citibank virtuals, and it is fantastic. Consider this: Have you ever put in a card for a recurring payment and then try to stop it, just to have the vendor keep charging., until you finally give up and change your card? Not so with virtuals. My Citi numbers ALWAYS expire, and it is a great insurance against someone overusing it. Just one of the MANY reasons I love it. (And yes, use it over the phone all the time.)</p>
Saturday, 03 Feb 2018 10:44 PM
<p>The amount of nonsense and bias in this article, not only makes one wonder about the vested interests of the author but also erodes the credibility of this entire website. All the trivial issues are blown out of proportion, facts are distorted (virtual cards only work online) and the benefits that outweigh the trivial issues are nowhere to be found in the article.</p>
Sunday, 21 Jan 2018 9:19 PM
<p>Clearly written by someone who has no idea how technology work. Useless information and fluff.</p><p>Virtual cards should be offered by every major credit card company as they provide an excellent way to layer security, limit damage, and identify vendors who have security problems.</p>
Thursday, 14 Dec 2017 11:17 PM
<p>I agree. I have never had any problems refunding a virtual account number. In fact they are very useful, like magazine subscriptions that you don't want auto-renewed. Or shopping online at a site you are not familiar with.</p>
Friday, 17 Nov 2017 7:31 AM
<p>This article is so useless that it almost seems like someone wrote this because they personally don't like them.</p><p>The only valid point here is that you shouldn't use your virtual card to make big purchases online if returning them could make it a hassle. Everything else though - just dumb.</p><p>Virtual cards are very useful when you want to, say, subscribe to a service (such as Netflix, Hulu, Sling), but don't want to provide your actual number. Maybe you want to order pizza over the phone but don't want to hand out your actual CC number?</p><p>You have to use common sense when using virtual cards. You obviously don't want to use them when purchasing your $1,800 TV or booking a flight, but it's very useful for small purchases.</p><p>I have BOA ShopSafe, and I can create and discard as many CC numbers as I want. I can put a limit on how much a merchant is authorized to debit from the card, and for how many months the virtual card remains active. It's super useful.</p>
Wednesday, 01 Nov 2017 3:16 PM
<p>The point about the numbers still working after expired doesn't really matter. Credit Card companies almost almost will refund fraudulent charges. The big headache is that you are issued a new card (and number).</p><p>That doesn't apply when the fraudulent charges happen with the virtual card number. You'll get the refund and you won't have to get new cards.</p>
Tuesday, 24 Oct 2017 7:50 PM
<p>They are usually relatively expensive, and inconvenient for spontaneous online purchases, if you don't happen to already have one.</p>
Friday, 29 Sep 2017 9:42 PM
<p>Why don't you just get a gift card that also has visa or mastercard logo on it? It's just a one-time use anyways.</p>
Wednesday, 27 Sep 2017 3:01 PM
<p>Disregard EVERYTHING you just read in this article. Using a virtual credit card is VERY useful. Every example the author listed is the dumbest reason to use a virtual CC#. You should use a virtual CC for simple things. For example- Pizza, iTunes, TicketMaster/Groupon tickets. You can set an expiration date but also delete the virtual CC whenever you want. So buy Ticketmaster tickets and delete the virtual# after you attend the event instead of waiting for the virtual# to expire.</p>
Sunday, 17 Sep 2017 12:45 AM
<p>I also never had any problem using the Citi VANs, and disagree with just about every point the author raises in this article. The numbers remained tied to the transactions and when I needed a refund, nothing impeded that. The bad thing is that Citibank's application was only available for PCs.</p>
Wednesday, 13 Sep 2017 3:56 AM
<p>I'm confused as I've been using Citi Virtual Account numbers for years and had no trouble getting reserving hotels or cars, or making returns. I don't that I avoid using a VAN online just because I can't use one at a gas pump. And I routinely give a VAN to merchants I don't want to charge after expiration - and the charges fail.</p><p>If my account at an online is hacked the credit card is worthless to the thief.</p><p>And why would I expect extended limits on liability? And why is that a reason to not use single-use VANs?</p>
Monday, 11 Sep 2017 11:48 PM
<p>I made a telephone reservation at The Sea Chest Motel on Treasure Island, Florida and the desk clerk, in addition to the CC# and exp date wanted the security code. I gave it to her but asked her NOT to write it down or at the same place as the CC#. But on arriving, the index card at the check in desk had ALL that data on it completely negating the purpose of the security code. I'll use a virtual number from now on when dealing with telephone reservations and clueless dunces.</p>
Wednesday, 30 Aug 2017 8:37 PM
<p>I have never used a virtual card. I have regular cards with Chase, B of A, and Discover. I'm considering making a VAN take advantage of a 5 day free trial on a particular website (that you join with a montly subscrption) so that they can't charge me or neglect to cancel my subscription. Would a VAN be a good idea in this situation and if so, which one of my banks? Thanks</p>
Monday, 31 Jul 2017 10:07 PM
<p>Now this comment makes a lot more sense then the article itself. I was a victim of debit card fraud last month due to an online transaction and today my wife had a fraudulent charge on her credit card. I am researching for alternatives to the way we use our cards to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. I will no longer use a debit card to purchase anything online because once that charge is made, you do not have access to the disputed amount until the issue is cleared up. I won't do that again, all online transactions will be on a credit card. Now I am looking for the safest way to make transactions and I am thinking about going the route of a virtual number..... This comment is most helpful, THANK YOU</p>
Sunday, 30 Jul 2017 8:48 PM
<p>Okay, then please explain what they do not know.</p>
Monday, 17 Jul 2017 1:13 AM
<p>makes one think about their motivations</p>
Monday, 03 Jul 2017 3:50 PM
<p>Was about to type "this is the stupidest article I've ever read..." until I glanced down and saw your expertly written comment.</p><p>Maybe virtual cards aren't ideal for recurring payments, or retail where you could have to return something. But for ad hoc, one time only purchases on the web, they are perfect and i plan to use it more often.</p><p>After having my PHYSICAL credit card number stolen twice in six months, it's time for me to try something else.</p>
Tuesday, 20 Jun 2017 12:54 AM
<p>Completely agree with you. I've used Shopsafe for more than a decade. Have had a couple of ligament issues with it. I lost a $1 back when Redbox was $1 because I used Shopsafe to reserve a video at a specific machine. When I went to get it, the machine wanted me to insert the CC that was used to reserve the video. I contacted Redbox and they said "to bad", that's their policy built into the software. They wouldn't even do a refund.</p><p>Shopsafe will only allow the first vendor that request card verification for an amount to ever make a charge to the virtual number. When ordering from Amazon, if your order has several items on a Shopsafe number and the items have different "supplied by" or "sold by" venders, only one item will process correctly. The others will be rejected by Shopsafe. If you need an accumulated order total of more than X dollars (sometime only $25) to get free shipping (Prime or otherwise) you can run into trouble. Also I have needed to buy items that were very inexpensive that are referred to as "add-on" items that must be on a main order of something else. Shopsafe will not work for that kind of order either. But, these issues prove to me that Shopsafe does reject secondary uses, which would be the case of the number is stolen.</p>
Saturday, 17 Jun 2017 11:22 PM
<p>For years, I've been using VANs for online and over-the-phone transactions. My primary draw was ability to revoke CC# without need to go through lost card process. Comes in handy for vendors who may continue to charge you subscription fees after you cancel.</p><p>I've not had a problem with VAN-related returns since it's linked to your primary account. I see little difference between the dispute/fraud process of card and VAN transactions.</p>
Friday, 09 Jun 2017 12:09 PM
<p>Thanks for posting. I totally agree with you.</p>
Friday, 09 Jun 2017 12:08 PM
<p>This person has no idea of how VAN works. Not quite sure why they bothered. VAN's are SUPERB</p>
Wednesday, 07 Jun 2017 1:07 PM
<p>I think that sometimes people are too concerned about certain stuff... I do not see any problem giving my real credit card number to Expedia, Priceline, Amazon or Ticketmaster, as they are big companies (although they make mistakes too). If you are too cautious and generate a VAN for every transaction that is simply asking for trouble</p>
Thursday, 25 May 2017 2:46 PM
<p>I agree 100% - I'm starting to use it more and more.</p>
Friday, 12 May 2017 8:05 PM
<p>This says it all. The article is just plain bad advice.</p>
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 6:07 PM
<p>Absolutely ridiculous article... either the author has no idea what she is talking about, or she has some weird agenda to discourage people from using virtual card numbers. Every single point she raises as a "concern" or reason not to use a virtual number is completely wrong and in some cases seem made up in order to fill a word count requirement in an article.</p><p>Verifying transactions is a non issue and is never, I repeat never a problem when reserving hotel rooms or rental cars.</p><p>"Jumping through hoops on returns" is not true at all and seems to be blatantly made up. A online purchase return is credited to the virtual card number and will work perfectly fine. The "difficulty" she states regarding merchant policy is the the same for real card numbers or virtual card numbers, the policy has nothing to do with the card number you used.</p><p>"They don't offer any additional liability protection" is a silly addition and completely out of place and irrelevant. Virtual credit card numbers are to prevent thieves from getting your real number. She correctly states that the max liability is $50 but almost all companies waive this and you have zero fraud liability... how exactly would a virtual card give you "additional" protection beyond ZERO? So yes, if your virtual number is compromised you do not have any additional liability, YOU HAVE THE SAME LIABILITY as your genuine card.</p><p>Best advice, from people who actually know what they are writing about (or do not have some unexplained agenda) are to use a virtual card number whenever you can.</p>
Sunday, 30 Apr 2017 6:58 PM
<p>The hotel and rental car examples in the article are overstated, but there is one case in which I have had a little trouble. If you pre-pay event tickets on-line or by phone and are going to receive them at a "will call" window at the box office, they do sometimes ask to see the credit card you used to charge the tickets to. Maybe if you prepay your rental car or hotel room they might do the same thing. In the case of prepay, they want to assure that the card number you gave over the phone is actually yours and you have it in your possession.</p>
Thursday, 20 Apr 2017 2:30 AM
<p>Correct. I think the majority of card holders that have had problems are due to not understanding how the system works and/or not setting limits properly.</p>
Thursday, 20 Apr 2017 2:12 AM
<p>Yes, Amazon and some others have a nasty habit of sending part of an order and then attempting to bill the card a second time when the balance of the order is sent. I quit using Amazon because their "Free Shipping" on some items gets put at the bottom of the priority list unless you have "Prime" ... a ridiculous subscription you must pay to get fair treatment with respect to shipping. A better deal is to use Walmart online ordering with free 2-day shipping.</p>
Thursday, 20 Apr 2017 2:07 AM
<p>Re: "I guess someone had an article quota to Fill." My thoughts exactly ... reminds me of MSLSD fake news.</p>
Thursday, 20 Apr 2017 2:01 AM
<p>Re: "And no, when the cards run out they don't keep paying, you need to set the limit to what you need for that transaction." My experience as well . . . 100% agree.</p>
Thursday, 20 Apr 2017 1:55 AM
<p>Agree 100% - Have never experienced any of the pitfalls described.</p>
Thursday, 20 Apr 2017 1:50 AM
<p>In sharp contrast to this article, it has been my experience that using "Virtual Credit Card Numbers" AKA "Shop Safe" are absolutely worth the effort and do quite well if used properly.</p><p>Refunds - I've had a BofA card for years and when a credit is issued, it goes back on the virtual card number. That number is linked to your account so there has never been a problem getting the credit applied.</p><p>Shop Safe is really handy for the "As Seen on TV" offers where you must pay another "shipping &amp; handling" fee if you want two of the item. Often you say you want just one but they send you two and bill accordingly.</p><p>The "My Pillow" scam is another caution as complaints abound all over the blogisphere. Also some vitamin pill vendors have "Trial Offers" with a shipping fee of $4.95. The catch is that they keep sending the product and billing your card unless you call and Opt Out. Of course, a handy way to block this annoying practice is to put a dollar limit of $4.95 on the temporary card number. </p>
Thursday, 13 Apr 2017 7:04 AM
<p>Ignorant article. If you don't think you need virtual numbers, feel free not to use them. But those of us that do will continue to do so as long as they are offered. I NEVER use the number from my physical card online, and I never will.</p>
Tuesday, 11 Apr 2017 11:22 PM
<p>We've used both Citibank and BofA Shopsafe for over ten years, and mostly have never had any of the problems discussed theoretically in this article. And I can give you the single most important reason for using a virtual card that would by itself outweigh all of the reasons combined discussed in this article, even if they were real risks: The virtual card is the best protection you can get for the biggest risk consumers face: The hacking of institutional servers and wholesale theft of customer credit card numbers. We never worry about that because we routinely create virtual numbers for the exact amount of purchase or a few dollars more (to cover variations in shipping costs). We don't care if our virtual numbers get stolen because they are usually zeroed put upon first use. We've rarely encountered any of the so-called inconveniences described in this article, and even if we did, they would still be worth it.</p><p>Bottom line: This article gives bad advice, and does not serve its readers well.</p>
Tuesday, 11 Apr 2017 6:03 AM
<p>Yes, the reasons given in this article are weak. I am a very long term user of Citibank Virtual and it has helped me through the years. But the arthur points out issues that make the virtual card sound inconvenient. You have these issues when you don't use the virtual card, so the card itself does not create the issues. I have had to explain virtual accounts a couple of times but in the end I never got denied because I purchased using one. I have been asked by hotels whether I want to just charge the card "on file", so the virtual card works for hotels. As a frequent car renter program member, I do not have to show my credit cards at the rental agencies, so again, it is not a problem. And you can use your physical card in person or just say you did not bring that card along on the trip. The idea is to not have your card number floating through the internet when you buy from a company you don't know that well or to remove the fear of a company getting hacked and getting your data. I have combined my Citibank Virtual with my American Express Bluebird for the perfect protection. The Bluebird allows me to have a "subaccount" debit card as a physical credit card that I can put a specific dollar amount on with my cell phone seconds before paying a bill. Unfortunately, it is a debit so it is not credit you are using (meaning you are using cash from your main account) but you can transfer the exact amount you need into the subaccount leaving nothing for anyone to hack. Of course, being a Debit card means you can get cash at a ATM (not worrying about anyone stealing your PIN since you only put money in right before withdrawal). Leaving the subaccount blank the rest of the time prevents anyone from charging anything and you will receive cell phone text notices if anyone attempts to use your card number. So, I can use my Citibank Virtual online and American Express Bluebird in a combination that really protects your money both online and out in public.</p><p>Of course with restaurants, they usually hold a credit amount higher than the true bill, so either plan for that or pay cash for those types of bills. (Once a gas station put a $99 credit hold for me to pump gas....a bit excessive...I never went back there). If you do add extra money for credit holds, after the hold is remove, Bluebird tells you the money is available for use. Transfer the money back to the main account to protect it. Never use the main account card so that you never reveal that number to the public. My main account card stays in a safe and on the back I have written "ask for picture ID"</p>
Monday, 03 Apr 2017 9:07 PM
<p>They inherited it from MBNA and show no signs of loving it, it used to work better.</p>
Wednesday, 01 Mar 2017 4:15 AM
<p>These are all non-issues. All of them.</p>
Sunday, 05 Feb 2017 6:55 AM
<p>Exactly. I've never seen anybody refuse my money before. As you say, the whole purpose of the credit card in advance is to set the car or room aside for you, and they can take your money if you flake. Once you actually show up to claim the car or room, they could give a rat's arse about which form you pay, so long as you pay.</p>
Sunday, 05 Feb 2017 6:45 AM
<p>That last thing you mentioned is a really good feature for say a gym membership or an insurance premium that is slow or hard to cancel -- as long as you've fulfilled your contractural agreement with them, you just pull the plug.</p>
Thursday, 19 Jan 2017 7:24 PM
<p>I find using Virtual Numbers a true convenience. You use it and throw it away. You don't have to worry about your actual credit card number floating around for years, subject to theft. The reasoning against them is pretty weak; "Verifying transactions can be a headache", keep your receipt. Also, know what venues will require an actual booking credit card number. Plus, if you have a receipt, transaction number, there should be no problem verifying your booking; "Plan on jumping through hoops for returns", with CitiCard, I have never had to "jump" through hoops for returns. CitiCard is developed enough to apply any returns to your account, even vis an expired Virtual Number; "Transactions can still go through after the number expires", that seem to be a programming issue. I have never had that trouble with CitiCard, and in fact have had to renew numbers I put expiration dates on; "They only work online", great, if they only had one you could carry around that had changing numbers; "They don't offer any additional liability protection", so. The standard liability protection is fine, plus you don't have to worry about it floating around the internet for years.</p><p>Final thoughts... "Unless you're just extremely skittish about entering your card information online"; yes I am extremely, extremely skittish about putting my credit card number online.</p>
Thursday, 12 Jan 2017 5:27 PM
<p>I've been using Citi Virtual for more than 10 years. Refunds, no problem, rental cars and hotels, no problem.</p><p>The default mode is that they are single use numbers that expire the next month. If the vendor tries to charge you twice, the second one is rejected.</p><p>You can use it for toll tags/recurring fees by setting a dollar limit and an expiration date up to a year in advance. Or, you can just set a max amount, usually a dollar more than quoted, just in case.</p><p>A card on file for a vendor, no problem, just set the limit to a few dollars.</p><p>The only problem I have is sometimes when I order multiple items from Amazon, they attempt to charge the number more than once.</p><p>Also, you can shut down any number that you've previously been issued at any time.</p>
Wednesday, 11 Jan 2017 10:39 PM
<p>I have used Virtual Numbers for YEARS and they have been such a PEACE of MIND...</p><p>until NOW!</p><p>The damn BofA ShopSafe is now NOTHING but a COMPLETE NIGHTMARE!</p><p>First of all... There is NO FORMAL INSTRUCTIONS. You sortta click on Use ShopSafe and generate the number and use it. Now the damn BofA INCOMPETENCE forced you to add PRAYING in the steps. I complied. Sometimes, my prayer worked and the charge went through. Sometimes they didn't. Whenever I called BofA to complain, they always INSISTED that they were not the problem. There was one time, I deliberately stayed on the phone for TWO HOURS with some IDIOT who insisted that they're not the problem and it was the vendor and then repeatedly asked me if he had solved my problem and asked me to hang up the phone if he did. I said I would not hang up the phone because he didn't solve my problem and the IDIOT stayed on the phone with me for TWO HOURS just to repeat the same ONE LINE. Apparently, they think it's still 1990s and they would be able to run out my cell phone minutes. Thank God for TotalWireless calling plans (unlimited). Eventually, the IDIOT hung up the phone on me upon which I filed a written complaint to the bank and subsequently got ignored by them as usual.</p>
Wednesday, 11 Jan 2017 4:57 AM
<p>I find the reasoning behind this article pretty flimsy and using cherry-picked situations to knock the concept. Not to mention factually wrong. Along with the other errors pointed out below: Virtual numbers can be used online or on the phone. Transactions on expired card numbers, if they even happen, are the responsibility of the issuer. Why would the issuer offer MORE liability protection for this service? Wouldn't that be a red flag that the service ISN'T as reliable?</p><p>I guess someone had an article quota to fil...</p>
Wednesday, 11 Jan 2017 4:51 AM
<p>I use these to STOP recurring payments. Simply put the expiration month as the next month so a year later when they auto-renew or whatever hits, it's rejected. Works every time.</p>
Sunday, 01 Jan 2017 10:06 AM
<p>Pure BULL... <br>When you do a car rental reservation or even taking the car out, or a hotel reservation or book-in, they ask you for a CC to make sure that you have a valid CC and to make sure that have enough available balance; they will put a "HOLD" in you cc balance, that is VERY DIFFERENT to MAKING A CHARGE in your CC. <br> NOBODY CAN or WILL; but NOBODY; in ANY HOTEL OR RENTAL CAR COMPANY... for ANY REASON whatsoever when the final payment moment comes;... FORCE you to use ANY SPECIFIC CARD.<br>You can use ANY other VALID CARD or legal tender CASH when the moment comes to make the final payment of the total amount due to them.<br>Even another person with a valid cc and ID like my wife, or my father, or even a friend or associate, present at the counter, can pay the bill for me... <br>Is this person thinking that we are stupid or what ?</p>
Wednesday, 28 Dec 2016 4:39 PM
<p>"...Never had problems booking room or renting car"</p><p>How does that work when, as she mentioned, they will ask you to present the card you used but you don't have one with the virtual number?<br>Thanks</p>
Saturday, 17 Dec 2016 1:47 AM
<p>I have used virtual account numbers for years and they do work extremely well to prevent fraudulent use of your real credit card information. A merchant I was using had their system hacked and several fraudulent transaction were run through on my virtual account...but they all got rejected because of the limits that had been placed on the virtual account number. The main thing though is I was only able to trace it back to the vendor because that was the only vendor that had that account number. And when I asked them if they had been hacked they said nope. So they did not even know about it??? or they where trying to hide the fact that their system was compromised...either way it would not have been possible to determine which company was responsible for mishandling my information without the use of the virtual account numbers.</p>
Sunday, 23 Oct 2016 2:23 AM
<p>I've used 'virtual' numbers for years with no real problems. Most are without time or dollar limits, but I do use them for '1st time' online purchases. The only problem I ever have is with Amazon and the purchase of multiple items. They sometimes do that with multiple charges. The virtual number stops that MOST of the time but has allowed multiple charges from Amazon on occasion.?? With high or unlimited credit card limits, using virtual numbers does offer security that you won't have with stock numbers.</p>
Saturday, 22 Oct 2016 4:23 PM
<p>I agree Jessica, basically what you're saying in the article is there is still no foolproof option offered by banks that secures your account. A VAN is a great starting point, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay are also. I'm weary with putting my actual card numbers on anything. Had a recent debit card hack and hadn't used my debit card for anything online or in person for almost a year. That was scary because even after hitting card was lost/stolen the transactions were still rolling in until it drained my account and all it took was 30 minutes of the theft doing this, and they were in person transactions, my debit card was with me and the person doing it was apparently in Cali while I'm in Missouri. Sad that we can't just have a protected financial life.</p>
Friday, 21 Oct 2016 8:40 AM
<p>Extra bonuses of virtual credit card numbers:<br>- if you create virtual credit card numbers for each transaction, both you &amp; the credit card company know exactly which company's database was hacked to steal your virtual credit card number<br>- so many credit card dumps these day, and when that happens, you don't have to cancel your credit card and deal with multiple companies needing to get a new number. you set up individual virtual numbers for each company or each transaction, and limit the use of the underlying credit card number</p>
Monday, 17 Oct 2016 7:52 PM
<p>I have used both BofA Shop Safe and the Citi virtual numbers. No problem at all, and excellent peace of mind. Sure, with sites like PayPal and other sites where you will authorize future payments you need to supply them with a new account number once a year or if you hit your set limits but it's no big deal. It just takes a few minutes. The fact that you can put a maximum spending limit on them is great. When I get notice from a merchant that the card is no good (either expired or no limit) it shows it's WORKING! I have had identity theft more than once, and ANYTHING YOU CAN DO to prevent just one occurrence is absolutely worth while.</p>
Sunday, 09 Oct 2016 5:08 PM
<p>I really hate the part about how virtual numbers won't stop recurring payments. This would be a real bonus from a virtual number. Many companies make it difficult to stop recurring charges even though the contract says you can "cancel at any time". On a few occasions I have found recurring charges that I did not sign up for. Either way, its a hassle to stop these and get refunds. I should be able to cancel a virtual number and have all future charges blocked. After reading this article I tend to agree that there is no real benefit from virtual credit card numbers.</p>
Thursday, 29 Sep 2016 10:33 PM
<p>So - what's even more of a hassle: when you get your card hacked and the account must be closed down, you are without a card while it is being replaced, you have to get a new account number and update all the recurring payments you've set up, what a pain!</p><p>I use virtual account number for almost ALL of my online transactions. With Citi, once you use a virtual account number, that number is ONLY good at the merchant you initially used it at: so, no, the number can't be re-used at another merchant, so you don't have to worry about the amount being higher for future use with same merchant.</p><p>I have not had a problem with hotels, merchants, etc. with returns or 'showing the card you used'. Buy at <a href="http://disq.us/url?url=http%3A%2F%2FWalMart.com%3AK3rBBribsL-MHUM3jK7vxKHyKgQ&amp;cuid=15643" rel="nofollow noopener" title="WalMart.com">WalMart.com</a>, return at a walmart store - no problem - they don't need your card, it goes back to the card you charged on. With all the hacking that's going on, you are equally likely (perhaps even more likely) to face this issue with your 'real' card when it gets hacked and shut down: your account number is changed so you have the same problem plus the hassles of having a card shut down.</p>
Monday, 26 Sep 2016 2:27 AM
<p>Rebecca,</p><p>Please stop misleading people and advertising for Apple. Citi Virtual account number and BOA shop safe both protect your account and works awesome, I am using them since they first came out and never had any issues what so ever.</p><p>Cheers<br>AM</p>
Monday, 26 Sep 2016 2:23 AM
<p>She is basically advertising for Apple Pay, Why not Samsung Pay or Android Pay.</p>
Sunday, 25 Sep 2016 12:17 AM
<p>Wow! So what she's saying is that <br>1) when you use a virtual credit card number, you should make the amount equal to (or a dollar more than) what is needed to buy at the moment. Ummmm... duh.<br>2) You can still get hacked when NOT using a virtual number. (And she considers that a NEGATIVE trait of virtual card numbers!?!?)<br>3) Your virtual number can get hacked and used for other purchases.... ummmm... again, set the amount as $1 more than what you need for the purchase, and this can never happen. <br>In short: She's clearly being paid by someone that does NOT offer virtual numbers (and I think we know who...)<br>Obviously, those banks that DO offer virtual credit card numbers are so popular that this kind of garbage has to be spewed.<br>I've been using virtual numbers for many, many years, and I've NEVER had a problem (and I do almost ALL of my shopping online!).<br>Hopes this helps those that might otherwise be taken in by this poorly-written propaganda.<br>And after you get yourself a virtual-account-number-capable credit card, head over to spamgourmet dot com (or any other email protection site) and get yourself set up to never be bothered by idiots like those supporting the perpetrator of this article, simply because you have an opinion.</p>
Thursday, 22 Sep 2016 5:59 PM
<p>I agree with the others here as well as the comments (removed) from the last version of this similar article. Citicard virtuals work good too and have been using it for almost 10 years with no problems, except for their system not working all of the time.</p><p>Rebecca must have something against BoA and Citicard since she's really trying (twice now) to convince people not to use them. It obviously is not convenient, that's just common sense. The point is that it gives people the choice to use it for those purchases where you don't trust the seller online. I always use it on Amazon and for those free trials, or groupon deals for $0.00 that still requires a credit card.</p><p>Anyways...go virtual for those who are careful with their money. That's probably a low percentage of society. Most people are bad with their money and in deep credit card debt so I wouldn't expect them to use virtual. Who knows, convincing people to use virtual might actually help them out by being smart with their money!!</p>
Thursday, 22 Sep 2016 5:29 PM
<p>Here's one killer use for virtual credit cards: You probably know a company or two that gives you a month or two free trial, but require they have a credit card on file and will auto renew at the end of trial period and expect you to remember to call them before the trial expires.</p><p>Just give them a virtual card number. Huge hassle saved !</p><p>And like Ski mentioned returns were never an issue. BofA let's to specify upfront if you intend to use a virtual number for recurring payments. So no issues there either.</p>
Tuesday, 20 Sep 2016 6:14 PM
<p>I have found Bank of America ShopSafe to be extremely useful in dealing with recurring payments. Prior to getting my BofA cards, I sent multiple emails to cancel subscription with popular sports magazine that was on recurring payments. I even filled complaint against charge with American Express after intentionally not updating card number after new number was issued and the old card number passed expiration. I was only able to unwind this when I cancelled the Amex card.</p><p>I choses BofA cards specifically because of ShopSafe, and have been very happy.</p><p>I have used ShopSafe multiple times to pay for things with "convenient" auto-renewal that gave the control back to me to limit unwanted ongoing charges without having to worry to cancel on the right day to maximize benefits without additional charges showing up on my card.</p>
Friday, 16 Sep 2016 11:11 PM
<p>I've been using a virtual credit card from Bank of America (ShopSafe) for a lot of years now, and I can tell you first hand Rebecca really doesn't know what she is talking about. Much of the above info is dead wrong, and the rest is exaggerated. I've done hundreds of the transactions mentioned above and have almost never had the problems mentioned - in all the years using this feature, maybe a couple of times things didn't work as expected.<br>- Never had problems booking room or renting car<br>- Never had problems with returns<br>- Can't use generated number after expired even with recurring payments<br>- They not only work online, but over the phone transactions<br>- Regardless of the liability, the time spent reversing a false charge on a regular credit card is not insignificant. My wife recently spent about 12 hours over 3 months to get charges reversed</p><p>Also note you must be an iPhone user since you mention Apple Pay above but not Android Pay. And Android commands worldwide about 80% of the market share</p><p>Ski</p>