According to Forbes, virtual cards could eventually become universal among businesses.
What’s so good about Virtual debit/credit cards? First, they are practically impossible to be stolen. Plus, they act as a buffer between your real card and funding source, which gets you another layer of security. You can control spending, and cut costs.
There’s also convenience and simplicity.
What are Virtual Debit or Credit Cards? Virtual credit/debit cards work just like physical cards, except they only exist online. A virtual card provider will generate a virtual payment card instantly for you through a website or a mobile app, which you can use for online payments almost everywhere. You can usually get them for free from many of these companies.
I’ve personally checked and examined all virtual cards and providers in this list, and here are the best ones. Also note that all of these cards are available in the US.
What are the best virtual debit/credit cards in 2021?
Divvy offers instant free virtual credit cards for every merchant you buy at, and a unique VCC (virtual credit card) for every recurring payment you need to pay. Their offer of unlimited virtual cards, customization, and the price gets them the top spot on this list.
- Unlimited number of virtual cards
- Free one-time use burner cards for single expenses
- Free subscription cards for recurring payments
- Set maximum spend, expiration date, and merchant lock
- Freeze/unfreeze or delete individual cards
- Send payments
- set limit against a budget
- Pricing: Divvy is free to use, with no hidden fees.
Revolut offers instant and free virtual debit cards from their app. They have expanded into the US in March and now offer their services in the US as well, across all 50 states. Revolut offers all kinds of services next to virtual cards, from crypto to budgeting and analytics, and they have personal and business options with four types of plans: Standard (free), Plus, Premium and Metal.
- Two types of virtual cards on business account:
- personal virtual card
- subscriptions virtual cards for paid plans
- no one-off or monthly charges
- up to 20 personal virtual cards
- up to 200 subscription virtual cards under a paid plan
- Revolut pricing plans range from free up to $16.99/month
Stripe offers you a way to create as many instant virtual cards as you want, as well as their physical cards. Especially beneficial for businesses who need to handle payments to their clients and/or employees. Stripe offers all kinds of financial services, management, automation, and payment solutions, and is becoming increasingly popular in the virtual card world as well.
- easy and fast setup with an instant generation of cards
- limit business types and industry
- single or multiple-use virtual cards
- custom spend controls
- make real-time decisions in every charge
- 10¢ per virtual card, $3 per physical card
- no fees for the first $500,000 in card transactions
Privacy.com offers instant free virtual debit and credit cards to residents of the United States only. As you can probably guess, their main principle is that they value privacy a lot, and have decent security measures put in place to protect consumers and businesses.
- free virtual cards if you use a bank account as a funding source
- Chrome/Firefox extension to instantly change who can charge your card, how much, how often, and to close the card
- set max charge limits on each card, or lock to a merchant
- your personal information is 100% private at all times
- Pricing – three tiers: Personal (free), Pro ($10 a month), and Teams ($25 a month)
Citi, the 3rd largest banking institution in the US, offers its virtual cards as well, but they are not available for all Citi cards. You can generate Citi’s virtual card by using Citi’s Virtual Account Numbers. Their Virtual Card Accounts offer tremendous flexibility for businesses and consumers alike.
- Limit number of uses for each card
- Set a maximum limit or range for spending
- Limit card use to a few hours or up to two years
- Lock to a single supplier/vendor or a category of suppliers
- Businesses benefit through improved audit capabilities delivering directly to ERP systems to automate reconciliation
- Can be used for local-currency payments in 40+ countries and nearly 30 unique currencies
- Fees depend on the type of card you use to generate your Virtual card with
6. Capital One
Through their Eno service, Capital One can generate free virtual credit card numbers for you if you have a Capital One credit card. Their virtual cards get integrated with your Capital One credit card account, and to do that, you need to install their Eno Chrome extension first.
- every virtual card number unique to each vendor
- lock, unlock or delete your virtual card numbers for any vendor
- Eno Chrome Extension offering various benefits such as generating a virtual card number at checkout
- earn the benefits and rewards since it’s linked to your account
- Adds another layer of protection to your credit card account
Emburse offers instant virtual debit/credit cards through their cloud-based solution. They offer the same security advantages as other virtual card providers, plus a decent number of additional expense and purchasing automation solutions.
- set budget, time, and category restrictions
- assign each virtual card to a different merchant
- Apple Wallet and Android Pay ready
- transfer funds instantly
- assign virtual cards to remote employees or contractors
- create an unlimited number of virtual cards
ePayService offers prepaid virtual cards, called ePayService Mastercard. There are two options: a virtual single-use or a virtual multi-use card.
- Single-use virtual prepaid card:
- purchase limit up to $3500,
- up to 10 active cards per user,
- no monthly fee
- card issue fee of $1-20 depending
- 2 month expiry period
- Multi-use virtual prepaid card:
- daily purchase limit of $5500,
- up to 3 active cards
- no monthly fee
- card issue is free
- 6 month expiry period
9. Us Unlocked
The US Unlocked provides a virtual Visa debit card and virtual prepaid cards that you can use with almost all major online merchants. Their main offer is giving you access to US brands, plus they work with some of the top freight forwarders in the world.
- Order products and services attached to your billing address
- Offers locking to a single merchant with Merchant Specific Payment Card
- Generate an instant free new virtual card number after every online purchase
- Fees: $15 when signing up, plus a monthly fee of $3.5, plus top-up charge, load and transaction fees.
Venmo offers a virtual credit card for online purchases, next to ordering their physical credit card. Using their digital wallet, you can split your credit card purchases with friends.
- use the virtual card while you wait for physical
- one virtual card at any time
- Pay in apps, online or local
- Must confirm SSN to view the virtual card number
- Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay ready
American Express offers virtual cards through their Amex Go mobile app. If you are a business owner, you can create Amex Go virtual cards for your employees to control spending and simplify reconciliation.
- Can be used anywhere American Express is accepted, including outside the U.S.
- Use online immediately or add to a mobile wallet for on-the-go use
- Keep track of transactions from all users with one consolidated bill
- Virtual card is reusable
- Fees: a one-time fee of $2 per user profile for virtual-only purchases
Netspend offers multiple free prepaid virtual card numbers, which you can link to your already existing prepaid card.
- Generate up to 6 free virtual debit cards
- Must link prepaid card to a virtual card
- Must verify identity to be approved
- Can be used internationally
- Fees vary. They offer a monthly plan and pay-as-you-go plan for flexibility. You can check the details here.
Bento offers instant virtual debit cards through their business spending management platform. Bento specifically targets businesses, and you can try it free for 60 days.
- Set a spending limit for your virtual debit card
- single purchase or recurring purchases
- Restrict merchant categories, international or other transactions
- For business owners more security, speed and more scalability
- Bento virtual debit card fees are already covered by the monthly pricing plan (first 2 months free)
Brex offers full financial software that gives access to your virtual corporate credit card once you’ve been approved. Brex recommends their virtual cards for businesses, to issue virtual cards to your team members.
- Control spending by setting card-specific limits
- Track expenses, earn rewards
- Earn points on all card spend
- need corporate Card before getting virtual cards
- no annual fee,
- no foreign transaction fees,
- no interest charges
- Brex Premium account is $49/month.
Airtm offers a way to get your own virtual debit card in USD and send any local currency for any other local currency, using USD as the base value. They act as escrow and work with Steam, Netflix, Spotify, Paypal, Venmo, Bitcoin, and many other options of payment.
- Make online purchases in any currency
- Send and receive money
- Some people use it for bitcoin and other cryptocurrency payments: you can buy crypto, change crypto to USD, and USD to any local currency
- No local restrictions
- No minimum balances or monthly fees
Payoneer offers regular physical cards, which you can use like any other debit card to pay online, but they don’t offer virtual cards. For example, you can’t order more than one card per currency, and the card you order is a physical card. Payoneer offers Digital Purchasing Mastercard to select users through an email invitation, next to their physical cards. Whether they will ever offer this digital card to everyone is unknown.
- can be used for business expenses (e.g. purchasing ads on social media)
- it is NOT a prepaid card, so it is accepted widely
- currently offered in USD only
- Payoneer account requires an ID scan for approval
- Payoneer account fees are $29.95 annually
EcoPayz offers their ecoVirtualcard, which is a virtual prepaid card. Basically, it’s a virtual debit card accepted globally.
- used for one single transaction
- must have ecoAccount at the Silver level or above
- no minimum spend and no pre-set amount
- open three cards at once and pay in USD, EUR and GBP as well
- ecoVirtualcard Fees:
- activation fee of either £1.50, €1.80 or $2.30
- variable transaction and conversion fees depending on your account
Benefits of virtual debit/credit cards
Security and Privacy
First, virtual cards add security and privacy to your payments.
Both virtual debit cards and virtual credit cards are used to prevent fraud; since they are throwaway numbers, they are useless to thieves. They act as a layer of protection (buffer) between your funding source and your merchant.
This keeps your real card number protected. You can even pay 100% anonymously. For example, you were in a car accident and you need to pay someone for the damages, but anonymously.
More security and control spending
You can usually set a maximum charge amount, and set the card to expire on a predetermined day. Some virtual cards will also lock to a merchant to prevent the card from being used elsewhere if there was a breach with that merchant.
If someone does manage to steal your virtual card information they’ll still be limited by the maximum amount you’ve set. Moreover, you can control spending of your single or recurring payments by these limits, often done through digital wallets. Control your income, the same way you control the costs.
Save costs as a business
As a business, you can save processing costs and improve internal controls. Virtual cards are cheaper to produce and mail than checks. You will eliminate paper-based payments with a faster and more efficient payment solution, which can’t be broken into.
You can save time with virtual cards, and you can use your digital cards and digital wallets everywhere. Any vendor or business that accepts payments by a debit or credit card generally accepts virtual cards as well.
Virtual debit card vs physical debit card
Virtual debit cards are very similar to physical debit cards.
Generally, you link a virtual debit card to an underlying debit account. When you make a purchase, the amount is subtracted from the balance connected to the card. To increase security and control, you can always limit the maximum amount you can spend in your virtual debit card.
Virtual credit card vs physical credit card
The same applies to virtual credit cards vs physical credit cards.
Virtual credit cards give you a few more benefits compared to regular credit cards. With virtual credit cards, you can decrease your spending, control your finances, close at any time if it’s negatively affecting your score, you can pause or freeze it, get more security and keep your information private.