How To Make Anonymous Credit or Debit Card Payments
In the Federal Trade Commission’s February 2023 data book, consumers reported losing $1.59 billion in bank transfer- and payment-related frauds, with credit cards being the most commonly associated payment method.
More and more users are recognizing the need for an anonymous credit card or debit card. Payment cards come attached with various sensitive data—like your account number, billing address, or security code—that can be misused by malicious actors to conduct crimes like cyber fraud and identity theft.
In this guide, we will answer the following:
- What is an anonymous payment card?
- How can this type of card protect you?
- What anonymous card payment solutions are there?
Why You Should Use an Anonymous Card for Payments
The goal of an anonymous credit or debit card is to hide your personally identifiable information (PII) from hackers, thieves, and other malicious parties typically operating online.
Skilled thieves can acquire personal and financial data via several methods, like hacking into a merchant website or intercepting a live e-commerce transaction.
Compromised data, like credit card numbers and security codes, facilitates financial fraud. According to Identitytheft.org, there is an identity theft occurring every 22 seconds, and many of these incidents are linked to compromised cards. Thieves typically steal credit card numbers to:
- Sell them on the dark web
- Buy gift cards under fake names
- Shop for goods and services online using fraudulent/synthetic addresses
An anonymous card adds an integral layer of safety to your transactions by helping shield your sensitive data from merchants and hackers. Two types of cards—prepaid and virtual—can be considered anonymous and both work differently.
Source: Nathana Rebouças
How Do Anonymous Payment Cards Work?
Anonymous cards can protect you in different ways depending on whether you choose a prepaid card or a virtual card.
Check out the following table to understand how each works:
You should explore the advantages and disadvantages of both solutions to figure out which one fits your needs.
Anonymous Prepaid Cards—Benefits and Limitations
Prepaid cards are widely used because of their availability. Users are generally able to acquire the card without an application process or credit checks, making it a reasonable option for unbanked or underbanked customers.
Besides providing privacy, prepaid cards also support budgeting efforts since you cannot spend beyond the loaded balance.
The downsides of using prepaid cards include:
- Increased risk of losing funds—Many credit and debit cards have built-in fraud protection mechanisms that detect unauthorized use and help recover stolen funds. Only a few prepaid card providers offer such protection, so the balance on the card may be irrevocably lost if the card is stolen.
- No overdrafts—Paying with prepaid cards is like using cash, as you cannot spend more than the amount on the card. Some issuers provide optional overdraft protection, but the fees can go as high as $20 per transaction.
- High additional costs—Prepaid cards can be quite costly, and you may end up spending a sizable portion of your balance on fees for account upkeep, reloading, ATM use, and balance-checking. Most services also impose inactivity penalties, so depending on the service provider and usage, prepaid cards may be expensive.
- Limited acceptability—Many free trial offers and subscription services do not accept prepaid cards as they’re not considered suitable for recurring payments. These cards are usually rejected by hotels and car rental services as well.
Are Prepaid Cards Truly Anonymous?
Source: Pavel Danilyuk
Anonymous Virtual Cards—The Best Way To Shield Sensitive Identifiers
Unlike prepaid cards, virtual cards are specifically created to facilitate secure, privacy-first transactions. They stand in as a decoy card between a merchant and your funding source, masking your real payment data in the process. While the virtual card must be tied to an existing account, your account data and personal information are protected and kept anonymous from the merchant when you’re charged via the virtual card number.
- You generate a virtual Privacy Card and initiate a purchase using the unique card credentials.
- Privacy pays the merchant on your behalf to complete the purchase.
- At the same time, Privacy debits your funding source to fund the purchase.
Because Privacy pays the vendor, there is no direct connection between your actual bank or card information and the merchant's systems. The virtual card acts as a layer of protection between your actual account information and the merchant, providing an extra level of security.
Why Choose Virtual Cards Over Prepaid Cards
Compared to prepaid cards, virtual cards offer the following benefits:
Virtual cards have standard credentials (from popular brands like Mastercard® or Visa®) and are accepted by most merchants, even for recurring payments.
Most virtual card services impose fewer costs than prepaid cards. There are no reloading fees or inactivity penalties. Some virtual card providers even allow free use within limitations.
Top virtual card providers, like Privacy, offer useful features to help users control their finances, including:
- Setting a spending limit
- Creating cards for single use
- Designating a card for use at a single merchant
- Monitoring purchase history
Virtual cards can be closed or paused conveniently without affecting the broader account. For example, a stolen prepaid card may remain functional until its balance is exhausted, but if a virtual card is compromised, the user can typically close the card right away to prevent unauthorized charges.
Make Safety a Priority—Create Anonymous Virtual Cards With Privacy
Privacy, a BBB®-accredited and PCI-compliant company, offers a security-focused and efficient virtual card payment service. After securely connecting your bank account or debit card, Privacy Virtual Cards let you pay without providing your true account information to the merchant. You can access the service by signing up on your browser or installing relevant Android or iOS apps.
Privacy gives the option to create multiple cards and lock every card to a different merchant, providing protection against misuse. If your virtual card is stolen during a breach on a merchant’s server, Privacy will decline its use at other merchants. You can also set up a Single-Use Card that closes within two minutes of being used, preventing a potential hacker from taking advantage of it.
Privacy offers advanced anonymity-friendly services by allowing you to protect your underlying account information, name, zip code, and address. That way, you get to significantly reduce the amount of PII you leave on a merchant website.
Managing Multiple Cards Is Easy With Privacy’s Browser Extension
With Privacy, you can create and manage virtual cards in an organized and efficient way. Besides using the web and mobile apps, you can generate Privacy Cards with the Google Chrome and Firefox browser extension. The extension autofills the payment data of your Privacy Cards on the checkout screen, enabling you to make a quick payment without having to toggle multiple tabs or search for your wallet.
Additionally, Privacy features a free 1Password integration, allowing you to store and manage your passwords and financial information in a secure online vault.
Privacy Cards—Available User Controls
Privacy provides numerous controls to help you manage your everyday spending habits. For example, you can:
- Set monthly or transaction-specific budgets—Every Privacy Card allows setting customizable spending limits. The flexibility enables you to budget more effectively and to share virtual cards with pre-set spending limits, perfect for employee expense cards or parents creating allowance cards for their kids.
- Close and pause cards seamlessly—Privacy enables you to pause or close cards at any time with a few clicks and without affecting your bank account. With instant card pausing and closing, you can proactively limit your exposure in case of a data breach and quickly take action if a card is compromised. This feature is also useful for preventing unwanted subscription charges while waiting for the subscription cancellation to be processed. It’s important to note that Privacy can only block the charges on a virtual card, and you still have to cancel the subscription directly with the service provider.
- Monitor transactions closely with real-time notifications—Privacy’s user dashboard provides you with a bird’s-eye view of your account. You can opt for real-time email or phone alerts to keep track of when a card is used or declined. The platform has an internal fraud detection system that flags suspicious transactions, and a specialized support team is available to remedy any fraudulent charges.
Get started with Privacy today—here’s how to proceed:
- Click on the signup page
- Enter basic KYC details (mandatory as per anti-money laundering laws)
- Link your bank account or debit card
- Request and get your first virtual card
You can create up to 12 new cards every month as part of the base tier, which is free for domestic transactions. Sign up for the Pro or Teams plan to access more virtual cards for personal and business use and unlock cashback benefits.