What are virtual credit card numbers and how do they work?

Virtual card numbers are randomly generated numbers from your credit card issuer that are linked to your credit card account. They allow you to shop online without giving stores your actual card number.

Thanks to virtual card numbers, you can shop online faster and without needing your physical card. Learn more about how virtual card numbers work and how they can help you keep your account information more secure.

Key takeaways

  • Virtual card numbers can help keep your credit account more secure when you’re shopping online. 

  • One way to get virtual card numbers from Capital One is through the Eno browser extension.

  • Digital wallets are similar in that they let you pay for purchases without using physical cards, searching for cash or exposing your actual card number.

Shop online with a virtual card

Access your virtual card within the Capital One Mobile app.

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How are virtual card numbers different from actual credit card numbers?

You can think of a virtual card number as a stand-in for your actual credit card number, and each virtual card number is linked to your credit card account. When you’re shopping online, you can use virtual card numbers instead of your actual credit card number. 

That way, your actual credit card numbers aren’t shared with the websites you’re shopping on—adding a layer of security. 

Some virtual cards can only be used at one online store so if that store is compromised, there’s less likelihood that your virtual card for that site can be used elsewhere. That’s the case when you use virtual cards through the Eno browser extension.

That extra layer of security is a major benefit of using virtual cards when shopping online.

How do virtual cards work?

You can use a virtual card just like you use your actual credit card—just shop online, start the checkout process and use a virtual card to complete your purchase. Charges will show up in your monthly account statements just like they usually do for purchases made using your actual credit card. 

How do I get a virtual card?

A virtual card is usually created by the card issuer and linked to a credit card account. Some virtual cards might also require a tool, such as a browser extension or app, in order to be created. Once you’re set up, you can typically shop online like normal. 

How do I get a virtual card from Capital One?

One way to get virtual cards from Capital One is from Eno, your Capital One Assistant. You can start generating and using virtual cards from Eno by following these steps:

  • Add Eno to your desktop browser. Once you’ve installed it, sign in to the Eno browser extension using your Capital One account credentials and enroll with an eligible credit card. 

  • Generate a virtual card for a specific store. When Eno pops up during your checkout, follow the instructions to generate a virtual card specifically for the store you’re shopping with. 

  • Complete your purchase. Your virtual card number will come with an expiration date and CVV code, just like a physical card. Use this information to complete your purchase. Plus, Eno automatically saves virtual cards for each store site so they can be used again. 

You can also access your virtual card through the Capital One Mobile app. After signing into the app, simply tap the Get Your Virtual Card button that appears beneath your credit card balance. You can use this virtual card at multiple stores. 

Finally, you can also use virtual cards when you add an eligible Capital One credit card to Google Pay. To use a virtual card with Google Pay, shop online using Google Chrome or in Android apps and select the virtual card option within the drop-down menu when using autofill to complete your purchase.

What are the benefits of virtual cards?

Simply put, virtual cards can make online shopping easier and more secure. Here are some of the benefits of using virtual cards:

  • Security: Virtual cards add another layer of protection to your credit card account in case a site where your actual credit card number is stored is ever compromised. For example, if you’re making a purchase on a website you’re not familiar with, using a virtual card can give you a boost of confidence in knowing that if something does happen, your actual card number will not be exposed.

  • Convenience: Virtual cards allow you to shop online without needing to have your physical card on hand. Plus, the Eno browser extension may also autofill your payment information for you, so you can check out faster with fewer clicks.

  • Control: Virtual cards can be locked or unlocked with ease, giving you added control over your online shopping experience. Some virtual cards may even allow you to set custom expiration dates or spending limits.

Are there downsides to virtual cards?

While virtual cards are great in most situations, they do have some limitations. 

Because virtual card numbers are different from your actual card number, virtual cards may not be ideal for online purchases you’re planning to pick up in person. If you have to swipe or show your card to verify your identity, your actual card number won’t match the virtual card number. 

This could apply to situations involving will-call tickets or hotel reservations. There might be similar issues with in-store returns, too. If one of these situations applies to your purchase, it may help to reach out to the store before buying.

What’s the difference between virtual cards and digital wallets?

Digital wallets are exactly what they sound like—digital versions of physical wallets. They can store things like credit cards, loyalty cards, boarding passes and tickets. Some states even let people store a virtual copy of their driver’s license. 

When you check out using a card stored in your digital wallet, a unique 16-digit number—also called a token—is assigned to your actual credit card. That token serves as a substitute for your actual card number so the store doesn’t see your actual card information. 

You can access your digital wallet from devices including smartphones, smartwatches, computers and tablets.

Digital wallets—like virtual cards—can be a part of helping you keep your payment information more secure. And having everything stored in one place can help make payments quicker and easier. 

The bottom line: Virtual cards help protect your actual card information when you’re shopping online. Digital wallets can do more, including storing different kinds of cards and other documents. 

Virtual card numbers and online security

Not only are they convenient, but virtual cards are one way you can help protect yourself from credit card fraud. And they also can help limit how much information is accessible to fraudsters if your information is compromised in a phishing scam or a data breach. But virtual cards can’t do everything. So always be careful when sharing your personal information online—and consider these ways to avoid scams

Virtual card numbers in a nutshell

If easier and safer online shopping is a must-have for you, then virtual cards could be worth a closer look. As a Capital One card customer, you can add the Eno browser extension to start shopping with virtual cards today.

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