Virtual credit cards are online cards that are not physically issued by the credit card provider. It is usually a free service provided by the original card issuer to their customers who want to perform an online payment with the help of their credit cards. Virtual credit cards include a one-time-use credit card number created by the respective credit card provider.
Typically, virtual credit card numbers can be used only once, and may expire within a month if not used. This helps protect the customer from becoming a victim of online credit card fraud.
A virtual credit card is, in fact, just a credit card number. The virtual card issuers generally provide a software program to be set up on the customer's computer. This software helps the customer to generate an interim credit card number, linked with their permanent one. Customers can then use this interim number for making online purchases. This temporary number cannot be traced back to the original credit card or to the customers' identity. So online hackers or deceitful merchants are not able to get to the sensitive data.
A few crucial factors on virtual credit cards that makes them useful and safe, if used properly:
Customers are allowed a minimum and maximum credit limit per transaction each day.
Virtual credit cards are valid for only a specific time period, specified by the card issuer.
Customers can usually perform only one transaction using one virtual card where they are able to use all the credited balance or a portion of it.
If there is any balance amount remaining on the virtual credit card, the amount is credited back to the original account of the customer.
Virtual credit cards are issued only to the primary card holder, not to any secondary card holders.
If there is a transaction where the customer has to show the original credit card in which the payment was done, virtual cards are unusable.
Given that virtual credit cards are non-physical, it is almost impossible to clone them, which makes it highly safe for all online transactions.