Are Virtual Credit Cards the Key to Safer Online Shopping?

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A startup company has created "burner" cards to ensure that personal information remains hidden during online purchases. Find out how it works.

You can now make online shopping purchases without having to hand over your credit card information.

That’s right. Startup Privacy.com enables you to create single-use and recurring-use virtual debit cards for all your online transactions so you can keep your credit card information private. The virtual Visa cards offer shoppers extra protection from card fraud, data breaches and identity theft.

“Virtual cards work just like gift cards,” Privacy explains on its FAQ page. “They are locked down to a single merchant, and you can make them single-use (burner cards) and set transaction or monthly spending limits on them.”

It’s free to sign-up with Privacy.com, but because the service is linked directly to your bank account, you need to have an account at one of the following financial institutions in order to use the service: Bank of America, Capital One 360, Charles Schwab, Chase, Citibank, Fidelity, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank, SunTrust, TD Bank, US Bank, USAA or Wells Fargo.

After you sign up, you next create an account, link your bank account and download the Privacy software, a browser extension — Privacy.com is supported by Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox — that allows you to create a virtual card number when you go to complete an online shopping transaction. A small Privacy icon will appear next to the credit card form on the merchant’s check-out page. When you click on the icon, a new credit card number will be generated for your transaction.

Privacy’s virtual credit cards function like a debit card, so your bank account is only charged when you use the card, not when you create it.

“You can set spending limits, controls, and close this virtual card anytime you want,” according to Privacy’s description.

You are limited to spending $1,000 per day and $2,000 per month with Privacy cards.

“Of course, you’ll have to trust Privacy with all your bank info for this entire process to work, which can be its own concern,” PC Mag said. “Privacy’s security safeguards seem impressive — if you trust the service to begin with.”

You might also want to check with your bank to see if they offer their customers the ability to create virtual credit card numbers for online shopping purposes.

What do you think of Privacy.com’s virtual credit card service? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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