Let’s face it. Online shopping has become a hobby for many of us during the pandemic. E-commerce sales are predicted to bring in more than $709 billion in 2020 — that’s an 18% increase over last year.
Unfortunately, all that extra shopping has created more opportunities for fraudsters to access our financial information. Data breaches are no longer uncommon in the virtual marketplace, so it’s especially important to protect your financial information anytime you purchase a product or service online.
Virtual credit cards have become one of the most effective options for safeguarding those accounts. This service allows consumers to create temporary card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes for online and over-the-phone purchases.
Unique credit card numbers can be generated for each individual purchase or used over a longer period of time. Some virtual credit card users even set up a unique number for each vendor they do business with.
Most importantly, any cyberthieves who get ahold of your purchasing information won’t be able to do anything with those details. Your real credit card information is not attached to any purchases you make with your virtual card.
If a company you’ve shopped with experiences a data breach, you won’t need to cancel your card, wait for a new one, and then update all your automated payments with a new credit card number.
If you are interested in using a virtual credit card, Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific recommends you consider the following:
Continue to review your transactions regularly. While virtual credit cards offer extra protection from fraud, they don’t make you immune. Review your credit card statements regularly. If you find any unusual charges, contact your credit card issuer immediately.
Set up spending limits. Most virtual credit cards allow you to set spending limits for each virtual card number or specific merchants. Not only will this help mitigate losses if a virtual number becomes compromised, it can also help you stick to your monthly budget.
Keep an eye on expiration dates. If your virtual credit card number can be used more than once, know when it expires or set the limit yourself. You can generate a new virtual credit card number when the old one expires.
Don’t use a virtual credit card to pay for long-term subscriptions. Since virtual credit cards have shorter expiration dates, they aren’t a good way to pay for subscription services. As soon as the expiration date passes, further transactions will be declined, and your subscription could be canceled.
Think about returns. If you purchase an item online with your virtual credit card and then return it at a physical store, you may not be able to get a cash refund since you won’t have a physical credit card to present. Make sure you don’t mind getting a gift card or store credit instead if you purchase something you are likely to return in person.
Learn more about how to protect your financial information at bbb.org.