Why You Should Use Virtual Cards to Pay for Subscriptions


If you have subscriptions to services like Netflix and Uber Eats—or you simply love to sign up for free trials that require you to enter a credit card—you should consider using virtual cards as your go-to payment method.

Unlike your physical credit cards, virtual cards generate unique account numbers that can be used for transactions, meaning that your actual card number is protected. You can have different card numbers for each online store or subscription service, and you can set spending limits and expiration dates as well as lock or delete virtual cards without impacting your actual payment account.

(Note that this is different from paying with a digital wallet—Apple Pay or Google Pay—which uses your real card number for transactions.)

The biggest perks of using a virtual card

Using a virtual card for your subscriptions makes it easier to cancel subscriptions or let your account lapse, which could save you money. For example, if you sign up for a free trial with a one-time virtual card or a card you can deactivate, it doesn’t matter if you forget to cancel before the trial period ends—the transaction won’t go through.

Similarly, deactivating your virtual card is a simple way to cancel ongoing subscriptions, as the service won’t be able to charge you going forward (though it’s also best to complete the official cancellation process directly with the subscription service).

Of course, if you want to keep a subscription, a virtual card also has merit. A multi-use virtual card number will still be valid even if the physical card associated with the account has to be replaced due to theft, loss, or expiration, so you won’t miss a minute of your shows or a single food delivery.

Another obvious benefit of a virtual card: security. If your information is part of a hack or leak, your real card number is protected. Plus, if your virtual card is one-time use only, no one will be able to make purchases to your account.

How to get a virtual credit card

Many credit card issuers allow you to enroll for a virtual card using your physical card. You might need to add the card to a digital wallet and check out using a browser extension or app, through which you’ll be able to generate a one-time card number or receive a unique code to enter at checkout. American Express, Capital One, Citi, Mastercard, and Visa all support virtual cards.

Alternatively, services like Privacy.com and password managers like 1Password (via a Privacy.com partnership) offer the option to create and pay with virtual cards.


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