What is a Virtual Account Number and How to Get One?

Virtual Account Numbers, Controlled payment numbers, Disposable virtual credit card numbers are one-time use, multiple-use or disposable payment card numbers, such as credit card numbers, that can be used for online payments. These are secure online account numbers.

Virtual Account Numbers work as an alias for your credit card number. Virtual account numbers and disposable credit card numbers are getting more popular in the US and UK because of numerous data breaches. Using one-time only disposable credit card numbers help you against online fraud.

The Virtual Account Numbers are a great feature for your privacy. These days it’s easy to get disposable virtual credit card numbers with providers such as Revolut in the US, the UK and EU member countries. In the USA a similar service is only offered by Citibank under the name of Virtual Account Numbers.

The term “controlled payment number” is a trademark of Orbiscom. The technology is also called by generic names “substitute credit card number”, “one-time use credit card”, “disposable credit card” and “virtual credit card number”, or “virtual card number” (VCN).

What is Virtual Account Number and How Does it Work?

A Virtual Account Number (VAN) is just like credit card number: a 16 digit number created every time you make a transaction. It prevents your real account number and details from appearing on the recipient’s and merchant’s end. Each time you make a transaction, the disposable virtual account number will appear instead of your real account number. The virtual account number is linked to your payment account, digital wallet or bank account.

The virtual account number is safer and more secure than an ordinary credit card, since it can only be used once. For instance, with a credit card number, criminals can use it to make purchases until you realize the fraud. As such, the virtual account number ensures that your credit card account is safe.

The virtual account number is automatically generated on every particular transaction. It is useful only for one specific transaction. However, you can use a program to set the maximum amount you can spend at a particular time. This implies that you can use the number for a set period.

For this to work, you need to use an app such as Google Pay. For those who wish to use a browser, they need to download a browser extension. With that, anytime you want to make a transaction, you will need to key in a username and password. A temporary account number will be generated by the issuing bank that works the same way as a credit card number.

How to Get a Virtual Account Number

These days it’s easy to get disposable virtual credit card numbers with providers such as Revolut in the US, the UK and EU member countries.

In the USA there are only a few other credit card issuers that offer virtual account numbers. Among them are Capital One and Citibank. Bank of America stopped offering their virtual account number service called ShopSafe, in September 2019.

For those using Capital One’s credit cards, the service is available for all credit cards. You can use Eno assistant to credit a virtual credit number. To do this, you need to use a computer and have an Eno extension for your browser.

Some selected Citi Rewards Card can also access virtual credit numbers. If you qualify to get a virtual credit card number, the process is simple and straightforward. You need to register your Citi credit card in the program. You can then generate a virtual credit card using an online interface.

Advantages of Virtual Account Numbers

Virtual account numbers are essential for safe and secure transactions. They reduced the chances for fraud for credit card payments. Providing a merchant with your credit card details like credit card number and security code increases the chances of him using it to make his personal purchases or their system can get hacked.

It is safer to buy from large and established stores like Wal-Mart compared to small and new stores. However, there are still some risks associated with it. This necessitates the use of virtual account numbers for transactions.

Most global merchants’ store their data in a single database. This is not safe and it is always a target for hackers. This leaves credit cardholder information at the risk of hackers. As such, it is crucial to have a virtual account number for transactions while the banks retain your real account numbers. It is not 100 percent safe, but it provides increased security for your banking data.

Downsides of Virtual Account Numbers

While it is safer to use virtual account numbers for transactions, it also comes with a few downsides. They include:

  • VANs only work online and they may not be of use to customers who do not shop online. It is because it does not affect transactions where credit cards are present.

  • Getting a refund after using virtual account numbers can take a lot of time and effort. It is because a credit card number is not present to get a refund. Merchants have a hard time when they have to make refunds for payments made using virtual account numbers.  Such refunds attract a chargeback.

  • There may be issues with verification. Sometimes, online payments may require one to have a physical credit card. Some stores may want to verify the same details appearing on their end to be the ones on the credit card. This may cause issues since virtual account numbers are randomly generated and are not present on credit cards.

Final Thoughts on Virtual Account Number

If you want enhanced security for your online transactions, you should consider making your transactions using a virtual account number. It is safer to use a virtual account number. However, there are a few disadvantages such as the one outlined above. To get a virtual account number, you can use credit card providers such as Bank of America or apps such as Google Pay.