Should You Get A Virtual Credit Card For Online Purchases?

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 17, 2011
Updated • Nov 29, 2012

When you make purchases on the Internet, you often have to pay by credit card. Sometimes there are other payment options available, PayPal or Google Checkout for instance. Without credit card though, you will end up with limited possibilities to shop online.

Handing out your credit card on the other hand may be a standard procedure in countries like the United States where the average consumer has more than 2 credit cards. The core problem with handing out your information is twofold. First, you need to trust the company or business that processes your credit card information on their web page. Considering that one of the largest banks did not get it right, it is fair to assume that there are no 100% safe places on the Internet to submit your credit card information to.

Some users might say that stolen credit card information may not be a big problem, as it is possible to cancel credit card payments for quite some time after the payments have been made. But that is only true if the credit card owner monitors payments regularly.

Most virtual credit cards offer better protection when shopping online. The core difference between virtual and real credit cards is that most virtual cards need to be charged before they can be used. They are prepaid cards. While it is still possible to get the credit card information stolen, an attacker has less options to squeeze out money from the account. A normal credit card could be charged for thousands of Dollars, a virtual card only for the amount that has been transferred to it by its owner. It is still recommended to check the credit card bills regularly, regardless of card and activity.

It is usually a lot easier to delete a virtual card and get a new one, in case someone managed to steal the information. Some banks and companies offer unlimited virtual credit cards to their customers, while others only one at a time.

Lets take a look at the benefits of virtual credit cards again:

  • They work online just like real credit cards
  • They are prepaid, and it is not possible to overdraw the account
  • They are usually faster to setup and cancel

There are three downsides that we need to address. First, you get another credit card number that you have to monitor and take care of. Second, these virtual cards may come with fees that you have to pay. Some companies charge per transaction while others a yearly fee. This differs highly, and there is no rule of thumb. Some banks might even offer virtual credit cards without fees. And lastly the charging time. Depending on the bank or company, it may take time to charge the virtual credit card. At my local bank, it takes four business days to set up a prepaid credit card, and a day to charge it, which is not good if you need to make a payment urgently.

A year ago, I would have suggested PayPal for most users. But PayPal has dropped their virtual credit card offering. Your best option now is to contact your bank to see if they are offering virtual cards. If you are lucky they do and charge you little or nothing at all for it.

You find several independent companies on the Internet that offer virtual prepaid cards. Companies like Entropay charge a hefty fee for transactions on the other hand. They currently charge 4.95% for transferring money to the card.

Is there another way to get a virtual credit card online? Let us know in the comments. I for one have made the decision to get a prepaid card from my local bank, despite the negative aspects.


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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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