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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. It can be helpful to use a virtual card when you want to be especially careful about sharing your credit card information.

Like a physical credit card, virtual credit 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 that you can use for extra security.

In this article, we’ll review the reasons why you might want to use a virtual card. Then, we’ll list our top picks for consumer and business virtual cards.

Reasons to use a virtual card

Virtual 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.
  • Convenience for subscriptions and trials: Virtual cards are ideal for free trials that require a card number, preventing unwanted charges after the trial period ends by simply cancelling or not funding the virtual card.‍
  • International transactions: They can be particularly useful for international online transactions where you might not want to use your primary card due to higher fraud risks or currency exchange concerns.

What to look for in a virtual card

The best virtual credit card for you should offer the features and rewards that you’ll use most.

Some of the things to look out for when choosing a virtual card include:

  • 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. Others charge zero fees but specify a minimum spending amount per year. Fail to achieve this spend and 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.

Top virtual credit card providers for businesses

Business credit cards that include virtual cards can offer added benefits for your business. Here are some of the top virtual credit cards:

Ramp Corporate Card

Ramp’s corporate cards offer unlimited virtual cards and pay you unlimited 1.5% cashback on all purchases. There are no spending category restrictions, meaning every dollar you spend earns points.

You can customize spending limits for your employees or restrict spend per vendor to eliminate overspending. With Ramp, you also get real-time transaction visibility so that your finance team can plan spending and track business expenses accordingly. Ramp’s corporate cards also don’t have annual or foreign transaction fees. Employees can add cards to their digital wallets, like Apple Pay or Google Pay, and make payments on the go.

Best of all, Ramp is more than a virtual card. You can centralize expense management by connecting different sources of spending data seamlessly. Export expense entries to small business accounting systems like QuickBooks or enterprise ERPs like NetSuite to simplify monthly closes.

You can also automate bill payments and invoice processing by uploading your invoices. Ramp handles the rest, saving you time. You get a comprehensive audit trail, along with Ramp’s expert support that helps you negotiate vendor contracts and unearth savings on existing subscriptions.

Capital One Spark Miles for Business Card

The Capital One Spark Miles for Business Credit Card is a virtual card option for business owners searching for travel rewards. With it, you’ll earn unlimited double miles on every purchase.

If you spend $4,500 within the first three months of account opening, you’ll earn 50,000 miles. You can redeem your miles for flights, hotels, and car rentals, or transfer them to Capital One’s travel partners. The card also comes with perks, including a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Plus, it’s free for the first year, and $95 after per year.

Where Capital One Spark Miles for Business Card falls short is the high variable APR of 23.99% and lack of a zero intro APR period. Although the annual fee is waived for the first year, paying $95 per year is still expensive for such a card. 

Citi Premier Card 

Citibank’s Citi Premier Card offers a welcome bonus of 80,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. In addition to the intro bonus, you earn three points for every dollar spent on various categories, including restaurants, gas stations, air travel, hotels, supermarkets, and more. 

Additional benefits of this virtual credit card include no foreign transaction fees and easy points transfer to dozens of Citi’s airline partners. There’s also a $100 annual discount on a hotel stay of $500 or more. The Citi Premier Card works for companies looking to earn travel rewards on everyday purchases for a $95 annual fee.

While Citi Premier card offers several perks, it isn't the best virtual card for travel out there. For one, the annual fee is quite high and may not be worth it. Second, there’s a high spending requirement for the sign-up bonus. Finally, it lacks travel and purchase protections that are relevant to a small business.

CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard

If your employees often travel with American Airlines, the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard can help you save up to 25% on inflight food and beverage. Cardholders stand to earn 65,000 American Airlines miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 120 days of opening the account. 

With the card, you also earn two miles per dollar on common expense categories like gas stations, car rental, telecommunications, cable, satellite merchants, and eligible American Airlines purchases. All other purchases earn one mile per dollar. There’s no limit on the AAdvantage® miles you can earn. The card costs $99 annually, waived the first year.

This card has a few downsides though. You can only earn double miles on specific categories and redemptions can only be booked with American Airlines and its partners. Moreover, the $99 annual fee is quite expensive compared to other options. 

Citi Double Cash Card 

The Citi Double Cash Card offers a cashback program that’s uniform across all purchases. Cardholders earn 2% cash back: 1% when purchases are made and another 1% when those purchases are paid for. This card is a straightforward option for individuals looking for a consistent cashback rate on their spending, without the need for tracking specific categories.

The card's rewards structure is simple, providing cash back on general purchases without the complexity of varying rates across different spending categories. This feature may appeal to those who prefer a one-size-fits-all approach to cashback rewards.

However, the Citi Double Cash Card doesn’t provide a welcome bonus. It also includes a 3% foreign transaction fee, which could be a disadvantage for users who travel or make purchases in foreign currencies. Additionally, unlike some other credit cards, it does ’t offer an introductory 0% APR period on purchases. These factors may affect its appeal to certain users, depending on their specific needs and spending habits.

American Express Business Platinum Card

The American Express Business Platinum Card is known for catering to frequent travelers and comes with a significant annual fee of $695. This card offers a rewards program that includes earning 120,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.

This card is targeted at a specific market segment, particularly those who travel often and can leverage the benefits tied to its rewards program. The high annual fee and substantial spending requirement for the welcome bonus are notable aspects of this Amex card.

Additionally, while the card provides various statement credits, fully making use of these benefits may not be possible for all cardholders. The steep annual fee and the need to spend a considerable amount to unlock the welcome bonus are factors that might outweigh the benefits.

Bank of America Virtual Credit Card for travel 

The Bank of America virtual card for travel is a perfect choice for companies looking for a standard virtual card with minimal fees but earning travel rewards. The card offers 25,000 introductory bonus points if you spend at least $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll also earn unlimited 1.5 points for every dollar spent.

However, it has its downsides. It doesn't have any bonus rewards categories like other cards of its kind, limiting your reward potential. The card's APR rate is also variable and can be high based on your creditworthiness, potentially increasing your interest if you have a less-than-ideal credit profile. It also imposes a 3% fee on balance transfers, which could be a drawback if you're interested in transferring a balance from another card to reduce your interest payments.

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Top virtual credit card providers for sole proprietors

As a sole proprietor or a small business owner, you may be interested in starting with a consumer credit card. Here are some personal virtual credit card issuers to consider:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a popular choice for individuals seeking a virtual credit card with travel rewards. It offers a compelling welcome bonus: earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. These points can be worth $750 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for travel.

What sets this card apart is its earning rate. Cardholders earn two points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. There's an added bonus for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, where you get 25% more value for your points.

The card also offers various travel and purchase protections, including trip cancellation insurance and baggage delay insurance. While it has a $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may still be a good value if you travel frequently. However, it might not be the best choice if you don't travel often or prefer cash-back rewards.

American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card is a virtual credit card suited for individuals who spend a significant amount on dining. Cardholders earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). The card has a $250 annual fee.

The card offers a similar welcome bonus to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. New cardholders can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases with their new card within the first six months of card membership. These points can be used for travel, shopping, gift cards, and other rewards.

Beyond points, the card includes dining credits at select restaurants and no foreign transaction fees, making it a good choice if you travel internationally. However, the American Express® Gold Card may not be ideal for you if you don't spend heavily in its bonus categories or prefer a card with a lower annual fee.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a virtual credit card with simple and flexible travel rewards. Cardholders earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on all purchases with no spending category restrictions. This uncomplicated approach may work for you if you’d prefer not to track your spending across different categories.

Its welcome bonus is less than the first two cards on the list, but still competitive. New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles once they spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. These miles are redeemable for travel, gift cards, or as statement credits for travel purchases.

Additional benefits include up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fees, no foreign transaction fees, and travel accident insurance. With an annual fee of $95, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a good value for those who travel frequently and prefer a straightforward rewards program. However, it may not be the best option if you want to maximize your rewards through specific spending categories or are looking for premium travel perks.

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 credit cards with instant approval

In some cases, you may be looking for a virtual credit card to open so that you can access it immediately. Some credit cards, like the American Express Blue Cash Everyday® Card offer you a virtual card number immediately 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 of the best U.S. bank accounts with virtual debit cards include:

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

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. You can also digitize your expense policy and set spending limits for your employees.

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.

FAQs

Virtual cards offer several benefits, such as:

  • Reduced fraud risk thanks to unique transaction-level card numbers
  • Time savings from automated expense reconciliation
  • Potential cash flow increase through higher cashback rates
  • Reduced need for expense reimbursements

A virtual card is a computer-generated card with a unique number linked to a specific transaction. Like traditional cards, virtual cards have the cardholder's name, expiration date, and a three or four-digit CVV.

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