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A virtual credit card is a randomly generated card number which can be used for online shopping and in-person contactless payments. It replaces the credit card number on your physical card, keeping your actual card number safe in the event of a data breach. 

Like a physical credit card, virtual credit cards (and virtual debit cards) contain a cardholder name, card number, expiration date, and a three or four-digit CVV. Note, however, that virtual cards are not an alternative to traditional credit cards. Instead, they’re a service connected to your credit card account or bank account that you can use for extra security. Most credit card providers give you the option to generate and use a virtual card number. 

The 5 best virtual card providers for businesses in May 2024 include: 

  1. Ramp
  2. Capital One
  3. Citi
  4. Brex
  5. American Express

In this article, we’ll outline some reasons to consider using a virtual credit card, what to look for in a virtual credit card, and review the top virtual card providers (a list that also includes U.S. Bank, J.P. Morgan, and Divvy) on the market right now. 

Reasons to use a virtual credit card

Virtual credit cards offer added security, protecting your credit or bank account information. Here are some of the reasons to use a virtual card:

  • Enhanced security: Virtual card numbers protect your actual card information from exposure during online purchases, reducing the risk of fraud and identity theft when shopping online. (Side note: here’s how to use a virtual card number on Google Chrome)
  • Convenience for subscriptions and trials: Virtual cards are ideal for free trials that require a card number, preventing unwanted charges from the merchant after the trial period ends by simply canceling or not funding the virtual card.‍ 
  • International transactions: Virtual credit cards can be particularly useful for international online transactions where you might not want to use your primary card information due to higher fraud risks or currency exchange concerns.

What to look for in a virtual credit card

When shopping for a virtual card, make sure to look specifically at the features and rewards that you’ll use most. You’ll most likely want to pay particular attention to annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and purchase protections. 

  • Welcome bonuses: Many virtual cards offer bonuses such as zero introductory APRs, cashback offers, and cash balance transfer rewards upon signing up. Some even offer generous referral rewards.
  • Reward rates: While bonuses are great, many card providers suspend them after the introductory period. Check the reward rates and terms after the introductory period and confirm whether they’re attractive to your business.
  • Annual fees: Some virtual cards charge an annual fee which can be quite steep (as is the case with Amex). Others don’t have fees but specify a minimum spending amount per year. Failure to achieve this spend means you’ll be charged a maintenance fee. Also, check the APRs since some cards charge variable rates. 
  • Foreign transaction fees: Some virtual credit cards include a fee for foreign transactions that might negate the benefits they offer. If you frequently make international purchases, check these rates.
  • Purchase protection: Every virtual credit card offers some degree of purchase protection. Check the terms carefully before signing up.
  • Rewards and perks: Every rewards credit card offers something different, like miles, points, or cashback. Review what perks are offered and whether they’ll add value for you.

Best virtual credit card providers

Most of the major credit card companies and banks—Amex, Mastercard, Citi, Capital One, etc.—offer virtual cards, as do a variety of newer financial management platforms like Brex, Divvy, and Ramp. 

Here’s a shortlist of the best virtual credit card and virtual debit card providers on the market right now: 

  • Ramp: The Ramp Corporate Card offers unlimited virtual cards via the Ramp dashboard.
  • Capital One: Capital One offers virtual credit cards through Eno, its downloadable browser extension.
  • American Express: American Express offers virtual card numbers for U.S. Amex credit card customers who are in good standing.
  • Citi: Citi offers virtual cards through online enrollment.
  • U.S. Bank: U.S. Bank offers virtual cards to businesses with eligible corporate cards.
  • J.P. Morgan: J.P. Morgan offers virtual cards to businesses with eligible commercial cards.
  • Divvy: The BILL Divvy Corporate Card allows you to generate an unlimited number of virtual cards via its platform.
  • Brex: The Brex Corporate Card lets cardholders generate unlimited virtual cards via the Brex dashboard.

5 best virtual credit cards for businesses

If you need a virtual number for business purposes, the first thing to do is to seek out a business card that includes this functionality. American Express, Citi, Capital One, Brex, and Ramp offer the very best business cards on the market right now. We personally recommend going with a card that has low—or nonexistent—annual fees.

Virtual credit cards vs. digital cards

A virtual credit card is an add-on service offered by debit and credit card providers that allows you to generate a unique card number for contactless payments. A digital card, on the other hand, is a copy of your physical credit card that's stored on your phone. Digital cards contain the same card number as your physical credit card, while virtual cards use a randomly-generated number in its place.

Virtual cards vs. digital wallets

Virtual cards and digital wallets may seem to function similarly, but are in fact two very distinct things. 

As mentioned, virtual cards are one-time use card numbers that are connected to your main credit card account. While they contain a cardholder name, card number, expiration date, and CVV just like your regular credit card, these are temporary details designed to mask your actual credit card information. 

Digital wallets, on the other hand, act as digital repositories for multiple payment methods. The two most popular digital wallets are Apple Pay and Google Pay, as they come built in to almost every new Apple or Android mobile device. These digital wallets are very much connected to your primary credit or debit card accounts; while they are digital, they are not virtual. 

Virtual credit cards with instant approval

Looking for a virtual card number that you can access immediately? Some credit cards, like the American Express Blue Cash Everyday® Card, along with its sister Blue Cash Preferred® Card, offer a virtual card number that you can use right after approval, which you can use as a digital payment method before your physical credit card arrives. 

Virtual debit cards

In addition to virtual credit cards, some banks also offer virtual debit cards. Virtual debit cards give you a randomly-generated account number that you can use in place of your actual debit card for more secure online transactions. 

Some U.S. bank accounts with virtual debit cards include:

  • Chime Checking Account
  • Axos Bank’s Rewards Checking Account
  • SoFi Checking and Savings Account

How to get a virtual card number from your credit card issuer

To get a virtual credit card number from your issuer, you can follow these steps:

  1. Log in to online banking or mobile app: Access your account through the issuer’s online banking platform or mobile app. Most major banks and credit card companies offer virtual card services through these channels.
  2. Find the virtual card service: Look for an option related to managing your credit cards, such as "Card Services," "Virtual Card," or something similar. This is often found in the menu under services like “Account Services,” “Card Management,” or directly on your credit card account page.
  3. Set up your virtual card: Once you find the virtual card option, you can usually generate a new virtual number by selecting the option to create a virtual card. Here, you might have the ability to set limits on how long the card number is valid and how much can be charged to it.
  4. Activate and use: After the virtual card is created, you’ll receive a card number, expiration date, and security code (CVV). You can use these details to make online purchases, similarly to how you would use your physical card.
  5. Monitor and manage: Keep track of your virtual card numbers and their respective spending. Some platforms allow you to lock or delete virtual numbers, set spending limits, and monitor transactions specifically made with the virtual card.

Additional tips:

  • Security features: Take advantage of any additional security features your issuer may offer, like alerts for transactions or the ability to quickly lock a virtual card if it’s compromised.
  • Compatibility with digital wallets: Some virtual cards can be added to digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay for easier use during online or in-store transactions.

Generate unlimited virtual cards with Ramp

Virtual cards offer convenience and an added layer of security for your business transactions. With a virtual card, you can pay merchants that accept contactless payments without worrying about your information being stolen. Ramp offers unlimited virtual credit card numbers to its users. 

What’s more, with Ramp, you can save hours of manual work by automating your expense tracking and reporting. Our built-in expense management functionality is designed to save your business money with AI-powered spending insights.

Watch our product demo to see how Ramp can help you streamline your business finances with virtual cards.

Try Ramp for free
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Finance Writer and Editor, Ramp
Ali Mercieca is a Finance Writer and Content Editor at Ramp. Prior to Ramp, she worked with Robinhood on the editorial strategy for their financial literacy articles and with Nearside, an online banking platform, overseeing their banking and finance blog. Ali holds a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from York University and can be found writing about editorial content strategy and SEO on her Substack.
Ramp is dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes make informed decisions. We adhere to strict editorial guidelines to ensure that our content meets and maintains our high standards.

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