Here’s how a virtual credit card number can protect your real card when you shop online

Technology

Amazon delivery dates have been all over the place recently, which means many of us are turning to other websites to shop on.

Darlene wrote a good question on my Facebook page:

As COVID-19 has evolved – so have my shopping habits. I am ordering groceries and essentials online. can you do a segment on one-time credit card numbers or virtual credit card numbers please. I’m not comfortable giving my cc to SO, SO many venders and services.

Let’s take a look at how one time use or virutal credit card numbers can protect you when shopping online.

Follow Tech Reporter Rich DeMuro on Instagram for more tech news, tips and gadgets!

For starters, I talked to Jill Gonzales, an analyst for the website WalletHub. She explained how the one-time card numbers work.

“You have a separate, one-time number used for that transaction, it’s essentially gone after that,” said Gonzales. “So, you’re a little safer because your regular credit card number is not out there on the internet for hackers to get a hold of.”

Jill Gonzalez, communications Director for WalletHub

The process can be easy or complicated, depending on your credit card issuer.

You go to their website and request a one time number or virtual card number. Then, you use that number to complete your online purchase. It only works once.

Capital One and Citibank are two of the biggest banks to offer one time numbers directly. Most of the other credit card companies have turned to “wallet apps” that help you check out online but don’t directly provide a direct one-time-use number.

My guess is that people just don’t use the one-time number feature very often, or their banks fraud-detecting AI has gotten so good that they don’t need to offer them.

But there are many websites that don’t support wallet apps like MasterPass and Chase Pay.

For a virtual card number solution you can use at any online merchant, I talk to Bo Jiang, co-founder and CEO of Privacy.com.

“If you think about it, the system we have in place for credit cards today is kind of ridiculous. You give a card number to a merchant, you hope that they charge you the right amount and keep your card number safe,” said Jiang from his home office in New York.

Boling Jiang, Co-founder and CEO of Privacy.com

Privacy.com offers a free way to generate one time use card numbers – but you can also do so much more.

You can lock a card to a specific merchant, you can set spending limits on a card and even pause or turn off a card completely.

The main difference here is that you have to link your bank account or debit card to Privacy.com to use their service. You can’t use your credit card.

Privacy.com makes money by capturing a percentage of the processing fee on the back end – you don’t have to pay anything extra, unless you upgrade to a paid account which offers more flexibility and features.

I tried Privacy.com’s virtual card to place an online order and it worked perfectly. It even displays the merchant’s name in my bank account ledger, which is handy for keeping track of transactions made through the service.

“I think in 10 years I’d be shocked if people were still giving out their real card information online,” concluded Jiang.

Other things you can do to protect your credit and debit card number is to use mobile payment methods to check out like Google Pay, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay when supported in person or even on websites.

In the end, even if your card number is hacked you are generally protected by the issuer, but it doesn’t mean it can’t cause you a headache. You might still have to wait to get your money back in the case of a debit card transaction, or a credit in the case of a credit card transaction.

Additionally, it’s no fun to have to update your card number for a bunch of recurring subscriptions you might have.

NOW: Listen to the Rich on Tech podcast, where I talk about the tech news I think you should know about and answer the questions you send me!

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