Virtual Visa Card Essentials—Benefits and Application Process

Ashley Ferraro, Consumer Operations
Jul 24, 2023
 Min Read

Visa® is one of the largest card providers in the U.S. and beyond. In 2022, Visa accounted for 38.78% of all worldwide card transactions, according to Payments Journal.

Virtual Visa cards have become popular due to their widespread accessibility, cost-effectiveness, advanced security, and the many other perks they offer. 

This article breaks down the basics of a virtual Visa card, explaining:

  • The main features and benefits
  • Where and how you can use the card
  • How to apply for a virtual Visa card

Keep in mind that this information is valid as of June 2023 and is subject to change.

Virtual Visa Card Features

A close-up photo of two Visa payment cards on a computer keyboard

Source: ignartonosbg

Virtual Visa cards only exist in digital form and have their own unique number, security code, and expiration date. These cards may be connected to your bank or preloaded with funds.

A virtual Visa card serves to mask your real card information when you’re transacting online and protect your actual card data from being compromised in case of a data breach on a merchant’s website. You use it to shop online like you would with a plastic Visa card, and the card number appears like a standard Visa credit or debit card number to the merchant.

Although Visa doesn’t offer virtual Visa cards on their own, some card issuers offer them as a feature attached to a credit card or debit card account. Alternatively, you can connect a bank or debit card account to a virtual Visa card service provider to then generate virtual Visa cards. You can also choose a prepaid virtual Visa card that you need to load with funds before using it.

Virtual Visa cards typically have numerous features. The exact list of features varies depending on the virtual card provider and the card you choose, but you are usually allowed to:

  • Create multiple virtual cards for different merchants or transactions
  • Set spending limits for each card or transaction
  • Freeze and unfreeze cards
  • Track your expenses online
  • Use in-app card management tools
  • Get rewards, such as points, discounts, and cashback

Virtual Visa Card Benefits

A virtual Visa card has several advantages over traditional plastic cards:

Benefit Explanation
Convenience You can usually create cards and manage them from any place via your PC or mobile devices, as long as there’s network coverage.
Efficiency A virtual Visa card is typically easily accessible and almost instantly available, unlike physical cards, which may take days to be delivered.
Ease of use
Creating and using virtual cards is fairly straightforward. All actions and settings are typically a few clicks or taps away.
Security An online Visa card masks your actual financial information from merchants. A potential hacker can only access your virtual card details while your original card and bank data remain hidden.
Cost control
You can usually set spending limits on your virtual card. This helps prevent overcharges and hidden fees, and makes budgeting easier.

Virtual Visa Card Uses

A virtual Visa card can be used for many different purposes, such as:

  • Online shopping on new or suspicious websites—Visa cards are widely recognized and accepted. Virtual cards are beneficial when you want to purchase from a new merchant whose trustworthiness you’re unsure of. 
  • Subscriptions and memberships—Most subscription-based services accept Visa cards. For example, if you subscribe for a service but do not wish to continue with the membership, you can typically halt further charges by closing the card and proceed to cancel the subscription with the merchant without incurring additional expenses.
  • International transactions—Visa cards are accepted around the world, so you’re not constrained to U.S. merchants, though international transactions may incur a foreign transaction fee depending on the card.

When making online payments, you need to copy the virtual card details and paste them on the merchant’s website at checkout. You may need to verify your identity using a one-time password, biometric authentication, or another method. 

You can also pay with your virtual Visa card in-store using your phone. For in-person purchases, your virtual card needs to be compatible with e-wallets such as Google Pay and Apple Pay. Make sure to check with the merchant beforehand as not all stores accept this payment method.

A photo of a customer making a contactless payment with a mobile phone

Source: Kampus Production

Where To Apply for a Virtual Visa Card

Some of the companies and institutions offering virtual Visa cards include:

  • Major banks
  • Payment service providers
  • Online card issuers
  • Digital wallet providers
  • Other fintech companies

When exploring your options, consider the features, fees, security, potential rewards, and digital wallet compatibility. 

How To Apply for a Virtual Visa Card

An illustration of two gift cards and a smartphone

Source: Mohamed Hassan

Once you’ve decided on a card issuer and card, it’s time to apply. Most banks will require you to open an account first, and you may have to pay a fee to access the virtual card feature. Independent virtual card providers typically allow you to apply for virtual cards with your existing bank, debit, or credit account. Before applying, read all the documentation to ensure you’re informed about the features and eligible to apply for a virtual card.

The application process will depend on the card issuer, but the steps typically include the following:

  1. Initiate the application—Go to the issuer’s website or banking platform and look for the Apply for Card, Open an Account, or similar option. 
  2. Fill out the form—Enter all the KYC information.
  3. Verify your identity—Some issuers require additional verification, typically in the form of an ID documentation upload or security codes sent to your email or phone.
  4. Add a funding source—Link your existing account to fund the card. If you opt for a virtual prepaid card, load it with funds. 
  5. Submit the application—Finalize your application by reading and agreeing to the terms and conditions, covering potential transaction fees, or setting an authorization method.

You can usually access your virtual Visa card details instantly through your online banking platform or app.

While many companies offer virtual Visa cards, Privacy is known for providing increased flexibility, safety, and spend control to its users.

Enhance Your Security With a Privacy Virtual Card

A close-up photo of a person browsing a clothing website on their phone

Source: Cottonbro Studio

Privacy adds an extra layer of protection to your online transactions.

With Privacy, you can:

  • Set spending limits on your virtual cards—You can set limits per transaction, month, or year and adjust them as necessary. If you utilize the card sharing feature, you’ll be able to share your virtual card details with trusted family members and ensure they don't spend more than allowed as you retain complete control of the card’s settings. This feature can help you budget, avoid overcharges, and protect you against hidden fees.
  • Create Merchant-Locked Cards—These cards can be used multiple times at a single merchant. This feature increases the security of your transactions as a third party that potentially gets ahold of your virtual card data won’t be able to use it anywhere else. 
  • Generate Single-Use Cards—You can set your virtual card to close automatically after a single transaction, preventing a potential hacker from using it altogether.
  • Pause, unpause, and close virtual cards effortlessly—In case of any suspicious activity, you can immediately pause or close your virtual cards without affecting your real card or bank account. This feature can also help with subscription cancellation as Privacy will decline further charges to a paused or closed card. Keep in mind that you still need to cancel the service directly with the merchant.

Privacy is bank-agnostic and compatible with most U.S. banks. U.S. residents aged 18 years and above with a checking account at a U.S. bank or credit union are eligible to apply for a Privacy Virtual Card.

Privacy is BBB®-accredited, demonstrating compliance with customer service standards and ethical business practices. It’s equipped with numerous security measures, such as firewalls, encryption, key rotation, and strict access controls.

Additional Benefits of Using Privacy Cards

Below are some of the other benefits of using Privacy: 

Benefit Explanation Why It Matters
Browser extension Auto-fills virtual card details at checkout.
Checking out is quick and seamless as you don’t have to search for your wallet and type in card numbers manually.
Mobile app Allows you to use Privacy on the go and receive real-time alerts when your cards are used or declined.
You can create and manage cards wherever you are and detect suspicious activity immediately.
1Password integration Helps keep your passwords and card details safe.

How To Start Using Privacy

Signing up with Privacy is simple. You only need to:

  1. Create an account
  2. Provide the required KYC information
  3. Link a funding source, such as a bank account or debit card
  4. Request and generate your first Privacy Card

With the Personal plan, you can generate up to 12 virtual cards a month that are free to use for domestic transactions, set limits, and pause and close cards. You also get access to the web app, mobile app, and browser extension.

If you choose the Pro ($10/month) or Premium ($25/month) plans, you can get:

  • Additional cards (up to 36 with Pro and 60 with Premium)
  • 1% cashback on eligible purchases totaling up to $4,500
  • Priority support
  • Dedicated account management (Premium plan)

Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Checkout securely online by creating unique virtual card numbers for every purchase. Avoid data breaches, unwanted charges, and stolen credit card numbers.
Sign Up