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Discover is a popular destination for people who are searching for a new credit card. It offers some of the best cash back credit cards, in addition to a very consumer-friendly secured credit card that helps people rebuild credit.

As one of the major U.S. credit card issuers, Discover used to provide a program that allowed cardmembers to generate temporary account numbers for safer online shopping. In the event that hackers got their hands on sensitive transaction information, they wouldn’t be able to make fraudulent purchases with stolen credit card data. However, Discover discontinued to program.

Learn why Discover chose to stop the program and what other options you have if you’d like a similar feature:

What Happened to Discover’s Secure Online Account Numbers Program?

The Discover Secure Online Account Numbers program was discontinued as the company reaffirms its $0 fraud liability policy on unauthorized charges. The program, which allowed Discover cardmembers to generate alternate card numbers for safer online shopping, was shut down starting Feb. 7, 2014, according to a notice sent to customers. All existing Secure Online Account Numbers expired March 16, 2014.

“We know that a small segment of our cardmember base was very loyal to this service and we regret the inconvenience this causes them,” said Laura Gingiss, a Discover spokesperson. “The safety and security of our cardmembers remains a top priority and they can rest assured knowing they are protected from unauthorized charges on their accounts.”

Through the Secure Online Account Numbers service, the credit card numbers generated for online purchases can only be used at a single merchant and expire much sooner.

American Express terminated a similar service 2004 when the company felt that its fraud protection policies were enough to safeguard customers.

Customers were fans

Online shoppers found peace-of-mind knowing that even if the card number was stolen, there were measures that reduced the likelihood of fraudulent activity.

“I’m sure any cardholder or business that has been a victim of credit card number compromises would be delighted to know that [these card numbers] are unique and unusable elsewhere,” said H.K., a Discover customer who values the Secure Online Account Numbers service. “I remember the last time they planned to turn off the feature. I wasn’t happy about it then either.”

The service was previously discontinued in September 2011, but Discover reinstated the service one month later after receiving positive feedback from customers.

For the loyal group of customers who still regularly rely on Secure Online Account Numbers, there may be a slight inconvenience posed by the service’s discontinuation.

Other Card Issuers With Similar Programs

Other major credit card issuers that still offer such a service include Bank of America® and Citibank. Their programs function similar to Discover’s Secure Online Account Numbers — a temporary card number is generated for the purpose of online or telephone shopping.

Bank of America® ShopSafe®

The Bank of America® ShopSafe Program will allow customers to generate a temporary account number with expiration date and security code.

  • Valid through date for up to 1 year in the future (for the purpose of recurring monthly payments)
  • You can set the spending limit of the number

The ShopSafe program can only be accessed through online banking.

Citi Virtual Account Numbers

Citi offers the Virtual Account Numbers program that also lets customers create a temporary account number. You can define criteria such as:

  • Single or multiple use
  • Individual or combined transaction amounts
  • Date and time ranges
  • Specified merchants only

You can access this feature through online banking.

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  • Joe

    No mention of why this is being discontinued, except in their email, they say “the technology is no longer available to them.” Anyone know if this is a licensing issue?

    It’s unfortunate that they are doing this, as a unique virtual number could also allow a compromise to be traced back to a particular retailer’s database, such as Target or Amazon, possibly helping to identify how or when a breach occurs.

  • Melanie

    It’s the one thing that made Discover card unique to me. Used this all the time.

  • Brian

    I used to have a CitiBank card for this, but they pulled every trick in the book to try and charge me additional fees on my account, so I dumped them for Discover. Now I guess I’ll be dumping Discover for Bank of America?

    • Simon Zhen

      They tried to charge you for Virtual Account Numbers, or are you speaking of other types of fees?

  • stephanie

    I would also like to know why. I love this feature and its deeply integrated into my auto-bill payment and budgeting system. Such a shame. Do we complain again or just let it be?

  • tw1d10t

    I’ve complained loud, but we’re a minority according to them and the loss of our business does not impact them greatly. It is regrettable considering the breaches that have happened at Target and in South Korea. I have used Discover since I was a graduate student 20 years ago. Just want to use my huge rewards bonus at Discover (Currently, we use it for over 10K in purchases every year) and then it is curtains for Discover. I urge everyone to take a look at the Citibank solution. Their feature also has ability to set dollar limits on the virtual cards. Very slick. They also can generate a virtual account number for their rewards points… Very cool. Sad to see Discover willfully becoming a laggard

  • Alex

    Virtual cards are pretty much the ultimate “can’t hack this” fraud prevention mechanism. I don’t have to worry about the numbers I give to shady online businesses. If they get hacked and loose my number, its useless to thieves. Go ahead, you can have it. So what… now I have to go back to monitoring my statements every week to see if my any fraud has passed through the automated algorithms that discover uses. I’m I supposed to go back to reporting my card lost or stolen every time a major retailer i shop at says… “ummm, sorry guys…. we gave all your numbers to some teenagers in china… our bad.”, and then waiting 3 days for my new card to arrive in the mail …. sigh. I will DEFINITELY be looking for a new credit provider that gives me virtual cards. Its been a nice 12 year ride discover.

  • Anna

    Anyone know which Citi cards offer the virtual account number feature? I used the Discover secure number feature all the time and am disappointed to see it go. I am shopping for a new card that offers the service. I noticed Citi’s website indicates the VAN feature is not available with all of their cards. I’ve made numerous calls to various numbers at Citi and can’t seem to get an answer to this question. The folks in the application department said they had never heard of virtual account numbers. I just don’t want to waste time applying for and getting one of their cards for this sole purpose, only to find out that I signed up for the wrong one.

  • kk60

    I “sincerely apologize for the inconvenience” to Discover, but I will be moving to Bank of America now. Even though there is zero liability for fraudulent charges, it’s still a PITA to have to change all the automatic payments setup *if* my card number is compromised!!!

  • Roscoe

    Unfortunately this comes at a time when high profile data breaches seem to be happening more often. I’ll probably use the Citibank cards more. It’s single-use card number system is more robust. I like the piece of mind knowing I can cancel a card number used to pay a service when sometimes it’s difficult to get the service to stop a reoccurring charge or when the service gets hacked and the numbers get hijacked.

  • ted

    well doesn’t that just suck

  • Anonymous

    I have this service at Citibank. Frankly, I would dump the card otherwise. I started using it after a $2200 fraud on my card back in 2002. Of course, I was not held liable, but it’s better to prevent fraud in the first place.

    It’s really a good thing to have! I don’t know if it’s supported for direct use from mobile apps at this time.

  • Bob

    Discover card sucks. I’am going to cancel my card. I dont shop online without a secure number!

  • NadsH

    Both Citibank Forward card and Bank of America offer this service. Nice to use that, Citibank’s is a pain to get to but they do have a desktop app for that – I suppose only for Windows. I wish they would build this feature in a mobile app, so I can just pull up my app with a click and use it.

    • Simon Zhen

      I second the request for the card-number generation on a mobile device. But, I’m not sure if security plays a role in why they don’t offer the feature on smartphones. I’d think that it does, since it is easy to peek over one’s shoulder to see the generated number.

      The more likely reason is that there is such a low percentage of customers that use the feature that it isn’t worth incorporating the feature into the mobile apps.

      • NadsH

        Thanks Simon, Have you looked the new Google Authenticator, it changes the code every so often and expires them very frequently. I do not mind my app by default generating card numbers that are valid only for 24 hours and then expiring them. Since their use is immediate, its ok if they generate a new number every so often for me.

      • NadsH

        Apple Pay hopefully would resolve some of this

        • Simon Zhen

          I actually don’t see Apple Pay being a fix for the lack of virtual account numbers for Discover. Firstly, Apple Pay would make up for this feature only through mobile shopping (I don’t believe Apple Pay is a merchant checkout option, yet, for online shopping.) Secondly, Apple isn’t even partnered with Discover yet! Though, I expect it to happen sooner or later.

          • NadsH

            Close reading on my previous comment is needed I suppose, It mentions “some of this”, which means not completely but some issues. Apple did mention using a single use – virtual number like – to complete transactions. So thats the part that will be addressed. And it brings this interface to mobile, which also I mentioned in my earlier comment.

            Whats not addressed as you said – Discover part and online Transactions, hopefully follows suit very soon.

  • Rita

    i stopped using my Disover card, no more secure numbers app.