Disposable Credit Cards

Disposable Credit Cards

When it comes to security online your are often trading convenience for safety. Complex passwords are harder to remember and type, but they are orders of magnitude more difficult to crack. A newer security practice, disposable credit credits, eschews this trade off and gives you convenience and security.

What are disposable credit cards and where can I get one?

Disposable credit cards, also known as virtual credit card numbers, are valid credit card numbers that you can use to pay for things online by passing the charge through to one of your permanent bank accounts. They are disposable in the sense that you can activate and deactivate them at will. In contrast, a “real” credit card needs re-issuing, mailing, and activation in order to get a new number. There are several services and credit card companies that provide virtual card numbers, Capital One offer Eno.

What’s the catch?

The downsides I see to virtual cards and perhaps only the services are:

  • Reduced or no cashback. Credit card points and cash back are important to some people, and depending on what you are buying this may be ~3% of the purchase. You can get small amounts back with Privacy.com’s paid account and Capital One’s Eno gives you the same rewards as you would normal receive. I’d weigh the importance of this issue, the amount you’re buying (saving), and how much you trust the merchant.
  • Critical failure point in the service. If your service or service account is hacked, this is equivalent to your bank account getting hacked. To mitigate this risk, secure your virtual service with a strong password, enable two-factor authentication, and ideally a non-public email (secured with strong password and 2FA. Another measure would be to link it to a smaller, separate checking account from your “main” checking savings account. This starts to trade security for convenience.

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