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

Virtual credit card numbers are a convenient way to make credit card purchases online. You may see them called virtual credit cards or virtual card numbers, and they allow you to shop online without giving merchants your actual card number.

Thanks to virtual card numbers, you can shop online faster—and you don’t even have to pull out your wallet. Learn more about how virtual card numbers work, and how they can help you keep your account information safe.

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 by using Eno, your Capital One assistant.
  • Digital wallets let you pay for purchases without using physical cards, searching for cash or exposing your actual card number.

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

You can think of virtual card numbers as stand-ins for your actual credit card number. Virtual card numbers are still linked to the same credit card account. But when you’re shopping online, you can use virtual credit card numbers instead of your physical credit card number. 

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

Some credit card companies give you a unique virtual card number for specific stores that can only be used at one merchant site. That’s the case with Eno, your Capital One assistant

So if a merchant site is compromised, there’s less likelihood that your virtual card for that site can be used elsewhere. When a virtual card is an option, that extra layer of security is a major benefit of using virtual cards when shopping online.

How do virtual card numbers work?

You can use a virtual credit card number just like you use your actual credit card number—just shop online, start the checkout process and use a virtual card number to make your purchase.

How do I get a virtual card number?

A virtual card number is linked to a credit card account. And some virtual card numbers might also require a tool, such as a browser extension or app. Once you’re set up, you can typically shop online like normal. 

How do I get a virtual card number from Capital One?

One way to get virtual card numbers from Capital One is from Eno. Eno allows you to shop online without giving merchants your actual card number. And everything is fully integrated with your existing Capital One credit card account. 

To use virtual card numbers, first add the Eno browser extension. Eno generates virtual card numbers for you when it’s time to pay. The only thing you need to do is fill in the shipping and billing information. And Eno automatically saves virtual card numbers for each merchant so they can be used again. 

Charges will show up online in your transactions and on your monthly statements, just like they usually do for purchases using your actual credit card number. And you can manage all your virtual card numbers from an online dashboard. So it’s simple to keep track of where your virtual card numbers are used and stored.

With fewer security risks, faster checkout and easier monitoring, Eno makes shopping online with virtual cards an experience you’ll love.

What are the benefits of virtual card numbers?

Simply put, virtual card numbers can make online shopping easier and more secure. 

They add another layer of protection to your credit card account in case a site where your credit card number is stored is ever compromised. And they can give you extra confidence if you’re making a purchase at a website you haven’t used before. So you know if something does happen, your actual card number is protected.

And instead of reentering your actual card number each time you check out, you can use virtual card numbers to auto-fill payment information to save you time. 

Are there downsides to virtual card numbers?

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 card numbers 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 number. 

This could apply to situations involving will-call tickets, hotel reservations and pickup orders. 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 company before buying.

And because they may be part of a browser extension, virtual card numbers may need a desktop computer or laptop to work properly. That means some virtual card numbers may not work on mobile devices.

What’s the difference between virtual card numbers 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 credit card. That token serves as a substitute for your actual card number. So the merchant doesn’t see your actual card information. And each transaction is encrypted, making things even more secure.

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

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

The bottom line: Virtual card numbers help protect your actual card information when you’re shopping online. Digital wallets store different kinds of cards and other documents. And they can also help protect your card numbers when making purchases in-store or online. 

Virtual card numbers and online security

Not only are they convenient, but virtual card numbers 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 card numbers can’t do everything. So always be careful when sharing your personal information online—and consider these ways to avoid scams

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

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