Visa, renowned as one of the largest card payment brands worldwide, collaborates with countless banks across the globe to offer debit and credit cards, enabling millions of people to conduct transactions seamlessly on a daily basis. As of 2021, the staggering number of Visa cards in circulation soared close to 2 billion. In a recent report by Forbes, it was revealed that Visa currently dominates the market, accounting for a remarkable 52.8% of total cards in circulation as of 2023.
Undoubtedly, plastic cards are a convenient way to pay and carry your funds. However, they often become a target for thieves. The fact that the card number and CVV are easily accessible makes the funds associated with the cards vulnerable. In many cases, identity theft leads to a permanent loss of funds. One of the solutions to this problem is virtual cards.
On top of addressing security issues, virtual cards offer other benefits. In this article, we will provide a detailed picture of the Visa virtual cards, review their benefits, tell you how to use a virtual Visa card, and answer the most asked questions.
- What is a Virtual Visa Card?
- How Does a Virtual Visa Card Work?
- Where Can You Use a Virtual Visa Card?
- Where Can You Get a Virtual Visa Card?
What is a Virtual Visa Card?
An increasingly popular payment solution, a virtual Visa card is a unique set of randomly generated numbers that serves as an identifier for your bank account or another banking card. This digital card can be accessed conveniently through a web platform or a dedicated mobile app. It is worth noting that virtual cards are typically issued by the same banks that provide physical cards, ensuring a seamless connection between the two. By integrating your Visa card into your smartphone or smartwatch, this innovative solution enables you to utilize it for point-of-sale transactions.
Given Visa's widespread global acceptance and popularity, numerous issuers now offer virtual cards based on the Visa network, allowing you to make payments wherever Visa is accepted. Whether it's a brand-new virtual card or a digital replica of your existing Visa card, the flexibility and convenience it provides are unparalleled.
Virtual cards indeed offer a range of advantages over physical cards, making them a highly convenient choice. Here are some notable benefits of virtual cards:
- No Need for In-Person Visits or Deliveries: With virtual cards, there is no requirement to visit a bank or have a bank representative come to your home for card issuance. This eliminates the hassle of scheduling appointments or waiting for deliveries, saving you time and effort.
- Instant Availability on Mobile Devices: Virtual cards can be obtained with just a few clicks on your mobile device. This accessibility ensures that you can acquire a card swiftly and conveniently, without the need to wait for physical cards to arrive by mail.
- Eco-Friendly Option: Unlike traditional plastic cards, virtual cards are environmentally friendly. They eliminate the need for plastic production and reduce the consumption of physical resources, making them a more sustainable choice.
- Easy Management and Tracking: Virtual cards can be easily managed through dedicated mobile apps or web platforms. You can view your transaction history, set spending limits, and even freeze or delete the card if needed. This level of control and transparency simplifies card management and expense tracking.
- Low Costs: Unlike most online payment methods, whether cryptocurrency or fiat money payment processors, virtual cards (including those by Visa) don't charge high fees. You don't have to pay extra money for the comfort of using a Visa virtual card.
- Versatile Use and Acceptance: Virtual cards are widely accepted wherever Visa is accepted, allowing you to make purchases online, in-app, or even in physical stores. The convenience of virtual cards extends across various payment channels.
- Enhanced Security: Virtual cards have some features that make them safer than physical ones. Before discussing it in detail, we should mention that virtual cards can't be lost, unlike physical cards.
Indeed, one of the most significant advantages of virtual cards is their enhanced security compared to traditional physical cards. The fundamental reason for this lies in how virtual cards handle sensitive information.
In contrast to physical cards, where the card number and CVV are visibly printed on the card itself, virtual cards utilize a different approach. They do not rely on or disclose the actual card number associated with your bank account. Instead, virtual cards employ a unique identifier known as Visa Token Service (VTS). It eliminates most risks associated with the use of bank cards. It doesn't compromise your card's data and replaces it with a token creating a buffer zone between the merchant and your bank account.
The token serves as a personal identifier and prevents unwanted access to your card's sensitive data. An identifier used instead of your actual name makes shopping with a virtual Visa card way more private. If you value your privacy, then you might like the fact that virtual cards block advertisers from mining your data.
Bound with some services like, let's say, Apple Pay, a virtual Visa card can provide such advanced features as payments in messengers or even by a verbal request to Siri. Google Pay allows splitting bills when paying with a virtual Visa card.
By using tokens, virtual cards mitigate the risk of unauthorized individuals misusing your card data if the card is stolen or compromised. Even if someone gains access to the virtual card details, they would only have the token, which holds no direct value and cannot be used to access your funds or make unauthorized transactions.
However, virtual Visa cards have some cons as well. See the list below:
- Dependence on Power and Internet Connectivity: Virtual cards rely on mobile devices, which means that if your device loses power. In some cases, virtual cards may not function without an internet connection, thus compromising your ability to make payments. In contrast, physical bank cards do not require power or internet connectivity to function.
- Limited Offline Functionality: Some virtual card applications may not work offline, depending on the issuer and the specific app used. This can restrict your ability to make payments in situations where internet access is limited or unavailable.
- Acceptance Limitations: While virtual cards, including those by Visa, are widely accepted, it's true that not all shops, hotels, or rental car businesses may be equipped to process payments or reservations through virtual cards. Some establishments may still rely on the actual card number for identification purposes, which may not be accessible when using a virtual card.
- General Limitations of Virtual Cards: The disadvantages mentioned above are not specific to virtual cards issued by Visa alone. They are inherent to the nature of virtual cards in general. While the popularity and acceptance of virtual cards continue to grow, there may still be instances where physical cards are preferred or necessary.
It's important to consider these drawbacks when deciding whether to rely solely on virtual cards or maintain physical cards as a backup. However, it's worth noting that the advancements in technology and increasing acceptance of virtual cards are gradually minimizing these limitations over time.
How Does a Virtual Visa Card Work?
The virtual Visa card is simply a number that identifies your account. The CVV code can be generated upon request during a transaction. When you make a payment with this card, the corresponding amount is debited from the account linked to the card number, and the funds are released accordingly. The crucial aspect is that the virtual card number is altered after each transaction. Hence, even if thieves manage to obtain the number you used for a particular purchase, they won't be able to use your virtual card.
Where Can You Use a Virtual Visa Card?
If your virtual Visa card is accompanied by a payment processor app like Apple Pay or the other one, you can spend money from your card in brick-and-mortar points-of-sale. However, if a store doesn't support these payment apps, you will have to use cash or a physical card instead.
With the virtual Visa card, you can pay for purchases made in online shops or pay for services remotely. It can be any business or institution accepting Visa cards.
Where Can You Get a Virtual Visa Card?
You can acquire a virtual Visa card through either the preferred bank’s website or app, or by utilizing a non-bank payment app that supports this functionality. The specific conditions and instructions for provisioning virtual cards may vary depending on the bank or app provider.
What features enhance the security of virtual Visa cards?
Virtual Visa cards utilize SSL encryption to enhance security, ensuring that your payments can't be traced. Even if your data were to leak, it would not put your funds at risk. Additionally, the number associated with your virtual card expires after each transaction, rendering it useless to hackers.
Why are virtual Visa card transactions cheap?
The cost-effectiveness of virtual Visa card transactions can be attributed to several factors. Physical card production entails significant expenses, and fees associated with physical cards help cover these costs. In contrast, virtual cards do not require a material form, resulting in lower fees per transaction. Moreover, virtual cards typically do not involve service or subscription fees, further contributing to their overall affordability.