I recently read an article explaining why virtual card numbers “aren’t worth it.” The internet is full of awful advice. One of my favorites I came across was from a young lady who stated that you should simplify your life by using the same password everywhere. I will be kind enough to not link it.

So let me go through point by point this writer’s complaints about virtual cards and what a pain they are. The emphasized titles are from the original article.

Verifying transactions can be a headache. Our writer uses the example of reserving a hotel room online with a virtual card and being asked to present the card once showing up in person. Car rental is another example she uses. I’ve done the latter, reserving a car using a virtual card. Once I showed up to take possession, all I had to do was present another card and voilà. No problem at all.

Another time I had made an online purchase at a brick-and-mortar parts store. When I arrived to pick up my part, the clerk asked for my card. I was curious why I hadn’t been charged on the virtual card but, upon being told I had to present my card in person, I pulled out a physical card. Again, no problem at all.

Plan on jumping through hoops for returns. Our writer claims that returns for a virtual card might be a problem. Anecdotal evidence I know, but I have never had a problem having a credit card return processed on a virtual card. I even had a return process fine on a card that had between the time of purchase and return. For me this has been a non-issue and I’ve been using virtual cards for many years.

Transactions can still go through after the number expires. I can’t speak to this except to know that my return I mention above DID go through and I’m very glad it did. However, I’ve had recurring payments become denied once a card expires. I can’t say whether the merchant just did not attempt to charge an expired card or if the charge was denied, causing me to be notified; but with virtual cards on Citi and Bank of America, you can simply cancel that virtual number when it’s no longer needed. I think it’s best practices to do so. For recurring payments, I normally load the card up with as much money as will ultimately be charged for as long as the card is valid (one year) and I have experience with charges being denied if it is over the amount the card was set for. So this issue may be real (I’m not saying it is) but you have convenient options to mitigate it. Just follow best practices and set a dollar limit on the card and cancel them manually when they’re no longer needed.

They only work online. Submarines only work underwater. I have no complaints with either.

They don’t offer any additional liability protection. I didn’t expect ADDITIONAL liability protection over and above physical cards. I just want to protect my credit card number by offering a temporary one instead. I don’t see any false promises here.

Final thoughts. Our author then states that while virtual cards can act as a buffer between your banking information and hackers, they’re not convenient. Security always requires extra effort.

Why do I use virtual cards? In addition to the feeling of security I get keeping my real credit card information private, I like to use them for recurring payments. I once had a cell phone provider continue to charge me for service even after I canceled service. After three months and many calls to that company and my credit card provider, I finally had my card re-issued to me with a new number. It was then that I found out about virtual account numbers and how I could have just canceled the virtual number instead of my real number. That’s pretty convenient.

You don’t have to use virtual cards when online, but it’s a good habit to get into. Once a habit, that slight loss of convenience for more security won’t seem such a bad trade after all.

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