Top Free Virtual Credit Card/Debit Card Providers [Reviewed by Experts]

Jocelyn Hu, Marketing
Jun 12, 2023
 • 
10
 Min Read

With a global market value estimated at $13.31 billion in 2022, virtual payment cards, such as virtual credit or debit cards, have become increasingly popular in the world of digital transactions. The market is expected to grow at a 20.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the U.S. through 2023.

With the significant growth of the virtual card industry, you now have a wide variety of free virtual credit card and debit card services to choose from, each with their own set of features.

We will cover the main aspects of virtual cards to consider and review the most popular virtual card providers to help you select the one that suits your financial needs:

How Do Virtual or Temporary Debit Cards and Credit Cards Work?

The term "virtual card" can refer to a virtual credit card (VCC), temporary or temp card, disposable prepaid card, or virtual debit card, but the core functionality across all of these card types is the same. A virtual card is a payment method used to complete online transactions without disclosing your real card data or bank information to the merchant.

Virtual cards are randomly generated card numbers with their own expiration dates and CVV codes and are connected to a funding source, such as a bank account or a debit card.

By enabling transactions without exposing your actual bank account or card information, virtual cards provide additional security in the era of increased data breaches. A hacker that breaches a merchant’s server and accesses your virtual card data can’t use it to:

  • Track down your real account information
  • Spend the funds in your account as you can set your virtual card to close after a single purchase
  • Shop at another merchant since you can lock your virtual card to a specific merchant

Virtual cards have gained traction as concerns over retail data breaches and debit and credit card fraud have increased. The popularity of virtual cards has grown further because of practical features that enable better spend control and more convenient ways to pay.

Virtual Debit or Credit Cards with Free Offerings—What To Look For

All virtual cards offer the same core service of masking your online payment footprint. If you’re evaluating providers that offer free virtual cards, you should consider the following criteria when figuring out the best provider for you:

Criteria What to look for
Setup and ease of use • Virtual card setup time
• Multi-platform availability
• Card cancellation process
• Ease of checkout
Security and control • Website security
• Customization tools that include merchant-locking features and spending limits
Free features • Availability of features for business features for business or personal use
A close-up shot of a female hand typing on a gray laptop with a card processor placed beside the keypad

Source: REINER SCT

Free Virtual Card Providers—Four Options for Free Virtual Cards

We checked out several virtual card providers offering free services—here are a few options:

Virtual Card Provider Service Availability Free Cards Limit*
Wise Free to use for personal or business Wise account holders[1] 3 cards at a time[1]
American Express Free service available for existing Amex customers[2] 1 card at a time[2]
Payoneer Free for Payoneer account holders[3]
1 card per currency[4]
Privacy Free for domestic transactions for those over 18 with a U.S. bank account or debit card
12 cards per month

*Free card limits are subject to change over time, and there may be industry-standard fees for international transactions

Each of these four services comes with unique benefits and caters to different types of consumers. Read our quick reviews to determine which provider best fits your needs.

Wise—Virtual Cards in 50+ Currencies

Wise (formerly TransferWise) is a global fintech company. Wise virtual cards are free to customers with personal or business accounts, except those from the U.S. or Japan[1]—they exist in a user’s Wise account and can be used online or in-store if the merchant allows it. These cards are often preferred by travelers as they support over 50 currencies and allow spending at real exchange rates online[1]. Wise users can have up to three virtual cards[1] at a time.

Setup and Ease of Use

Users can access Wise virtual cards once they apply for a Wise Card, a debit card linked to their multi-currency account. Upon activation (which takes about 14–21 days[5]), they can create a virtual card by:

  1. Navigating to the Cards tab in their account on a web browser
  2. Using the Get a digital card option on the Android or iOS app

Keep in mind that Wise virtual cards are not available for personal accounts based in the U.S. though business account holders in the U.S. can request a virtual card.

Security and Control Features

The platform offers specific features for managing finances, with options to:

  • Freeze virtual cards after each purchase—Even if the virtual card is compromised, hackers shouldn't be able to use it if it is frozen
  • Close and replace cards instantly—Users can close compromised cards and generate replacements
  • Set spending limits—Users can access the Account limits option to change their maximum or default spending limit on Wise

Pros and Cons

Here’s a summary of Wise virtual card features:

Pros Cons
Multi-currency and real-time exchange rate options U.S. availability limited to only Business users

Multi-platform availability No free virtual cards for U.S. and Japan users
Three virtual cards can stay active simultaneously
Security and card customization options
A woman sitting on a chair with a newspaper and a phone on her lap while holding a wallet and a payment card

Source: Leeloo Thefirst

American Express—Instant Virtual Credit Cards for Free

American Express, along with top banks like Citibank and Capital One, provides virtual card services for its customers. Amex offers card automation and checkout convenience. Users can also get rewards and cashback as applicable to their accounts.

Setup and Ease of Use

Amex virtual cards are available to existing customers with an eligible American Express Card. Users can enroll for the service by visiting their account on Google Chrome (desktop version) or the Amex app and linking their Google account. Online applicants can typically have one virtual card for every physical Amex they possess.

To use an Amex virtual card, users must select this option during checkout. As long as they’re logged into their Google account, the card data should be automatically filled out. Unfortunately, American Express does not allow the use of virtual cards for subscriptions or recurring payments[2].

Users can delete the virtual card by accessing the Manage Digital Wallets section in the Amex account/app and generate a new one the next time they shop.

Security and Control Features

Amex virtual cards mask the real Amex card information and offer some additional protection measures. For example, Amex creates a dynamic 4-digit security code each time a purchase is completed as an additional safety layer[2]. Users can set a minimum spending limit of $200 on their card[6], but there aren’t many customization options beyond that.

Pros and Cons

Here’s a summary of Amex virtual credit card features:

Pros Cons
Easily generated Does not support subscription payments
Checkout automation via linking with Google Only available to Amex users
Easy card management Limited card customization
Dynamic security codes for each transaction
A close-up shot of a customer at a checkout counter, completing payment with a card processor

Source: Kampus Production

Payoneer—Free Virtual Credit Card With Money Limits

Payoneer is a global payment service that issues virtual cards to its existing users in the U.S. The cards can be used at any location where Mastercard® is accepted.

Setup and Ease of Use

To acquire a Payoneer virtual card, users must have an approved ID and proof of residence added to the account. Once they’ve done that, they can set up the virtual card by:

  1. Going to the Banks & cards section in their account
  2. Selecting Payoneer cards
  3. Specifying the card type as Virtual
  4. Choosing the permanent currency for the card
  5. Clicking Order card to finish

Users can fund the card with their Payoneer account. Canceling the card cannot be done automatically and requires contacting Payoneer’s customer support team.

Security and Control Features

Payoneer helps protect online transactions with 3D Secure technology, which requires users to provide a one-time-only security code to approve transactions. All Payoneer cards, physical or virtual, come with the following daily limits[7]:

  • Up to 30 point-of-sale transactions with a maximum expenditure of $2,500
  • Up to $5,000 total daily spending limit

Pros and Cons

While the customization options are fairly limited, there are several other pros and cons to consider before choosing the Payoneer virtual card::

Pros Cons
Daily spending limits Only supports Mastercard payments
3D Secure feature Must contact customer support to cancel cards[8]

Privacy—Secure Virtual Cards With Customization Features

Privacy Virtual Cards can be used on local and international purchases if the merchant accepts U.S. debit or credit cards. The platform's base plan currently allows users to create up to 12 virtual cards every month that are free for domestic transactions, making it the most flexible option on the list.

Setup and Ease of Use

Privacy Virtual Cards can be generated instantly once you create an account. Here’s how to get a virtual card:

  1. Sign up for a Privacy account on your browser (Android and iOS apps are also available)
  2. Fill out the required KYC details
  3. Add a bank account as your funding source
  4. Request and create your first Privacy Card

Privacy is compatible with most U.S. banks and does not require a credit check for setup.

Here are some of the standout features of Privacy Cards:

  • Single-Use and Merchant-Locked Cards—As a Privacy user, you can create unique cards for each merchant. The merchant-lock feature is especially convenient if a hacker breaches the website's server and steals the number as they can't use the card anywhere else. You can also generate a different card number for every purchase to keep your online transactions more secure.
  • Fast checkout—Privacy offers Chrome and Firefox browser extensions to generate unique card numbers and auto-fill data with a single click. The feature makes checking out seamless, especially when you need to make a fast purchase and don’t have time to search for your wallet.
  • Option to quickly pause/close the card—Privacy cards can be closed, paused, or unpaused effortlessly. If you think there's suspicious activity on a card, you can instantly close the card without affecting your actual bank account and protect against unauthorized use of your virtual card data. This feature is also useful if you need to block an unwanted subscription. Once you pause/close the card, all payment requests will automatically be denied, preventing the subscription service from charging that card until the cancellation is processed. Note that you still have to reach out to the merchant to cancel the subscription yourself.

Security and Control Features

Privacy is BBB (Better Business Bureau®) accredited and deploys the same security protocols as any reliable bank. The platform is compliant with PCI standards and uses TLS 1.2 and AES-256 encryption standards to help keep your data safe.

In case you want enhanced login protection, you can set up a Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). Additionally, the platform never obtains or stores your bank login information but uses a secure tokenization process to pull funds from your account as you make transactions. You can also take advantage of the free 1Password integration to keep all of your login passwords safe and manage them from one secure dashboard.

Besides robust security, Privacy offers multiple control features, such as:

  • Customizable spending limits—You can specify spending limits for each card or transaction. Charges that exceed the designated limit are automatically declined by Privacy.
  • Real-time monitoring—You get real-time notifications via the mobile app every time a Privacy Card is authorized, used, or declined. Privacy’s dashboard makes it easy for you to keep track of your spending.

Source: Polina Tankilevitch

Pros and Cons

Privacy includes all relevant features in the Personal plan and offers more benefits like cashback and more cards on the Pro ($10/month) or Premium ($25/month) plans. The highest tier allows you to create up to 60 virtual cards every month.

Before you sign up for a Privacy Card, review the pros and cons of the service:

Pros Cons
Option to create up to 12 virtual cards
Only available to U.S. residents
Fast setup and cancellation No credit card funding
Browser extension for easy and fast checkout
Bank agnostic
Real-time transaction notifications
Easy subscription management

References

[1] Wise. https://wise.com/gb/virtual-card/, sourced May 2023
[2] American Express. https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/credit-cards/features-benefits/digital-wallets/virtual-card-number/frequently-asked-questions/, sourced May 2023
[3] Payoneer. https://www.payoneer.com/about/fees/, sourced May 2023
[4] Payoneer. https://payoneer.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/172/~/can-i-have-more-than-one-card, sourced May 2023
[5] Wise. https://wise.com/help/articles/2935763/my-wise-card-hasnt-arrived-yet, sourced May 2023
[6] American Express. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/features-benefits/additional-card/index.html,  sourced May 2023
[7]  Payoneer. https://payoneer.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail_iFrame/a_id/40363/c/6209, sourced May 24, 2023
[8] Zorica Loncar. Wise. https://wise.com/gb/blog/how-to-cancel-payoneer-card, November 6, 2022
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