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How to Get a Virtual Credit Card for Your Small Business

By Tracey Stepanchuk Reviewed By Ann Cornell
By Tracey Stepanchuk Reviewed By Ann Cornell

Making online purchases or payments for your small business is convenient and sometimes — for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic — necessary. However, between data leaks and website hackings, having your sensitive payment information on the web can be risky. 

The solution? Getting a virtual credit card for your small business. Here’s why you should get one and our choices for the top virtual cards for your business. We’ll also go through how to land instant approval for a virtual credit card and how to get a free online credit card.

What Is a Virtual Credit Card?

A virtual credit card is a disposable version of your regular debit or credit card. Instead of a physical card with a magnetic stripe or chip, you’ll get a 16-digit number and an expiration date. A virtual credit card is linked to your main credit card account, but it generates card numbers that can be used for a single transaction and then electronically trashed. Or it can create a number that can be used multiple times for the same merchant. This makes a business virtual card safer than using your existing card, which can be used fraudulently if the numbers are recorded anywhere by someone unauthorized. 

An online virtual credit card offers added security for online commerce transactions, combining aspects of a typical credit card with digital banking options. 

What Are the Benefits of an Online Virtual Credit Card?

1. Security 

When you use an online virtual credit card to make purchases, you reduce your risk of being a victim of fraud. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 2.1 million fraud reports in 2020, with online shopping in the second-most commonly reported fraud category. There were also 1,001 data breaches in the U.S. in 2020, according to Statista, and more than 155.8 million people experienced data exposures. 

A virtual credit card’s impermanence is the key to its security success. A single-use number ensures the verification data sent to a seller is unique. A multi-use virtual card number can be dedicated to a particular vendor or other entity. The technology is similar to an electronic chip on a modern credit card: It creates a new token each time the card is used. Because the token can only be used once, it’s useless for anyone to steal it.

2. Convenience 

A virtual credit card is more convenient because you don’t have to have a physical card to complete an online purchase. You access virtual cards for your business from a protected format on an electronic device.

In addition, you can:

  • Try out new technology options: An online virtual credit card enables you to try new buying technology without taking on much risk.
  • Safe to share: You no longer need to reimburse your employees for purchases they make using their own funds on the company’s behalf, which saves time, paperwork and accounting issues. 
  • Simplified returns: Paying taxes is easier because you can record purchases based on custom rules you put in place. 
  • Safe subscription options: You can use a virtual credit card for recurring payments such as a monthly subscription. While some virtual cards for business are geared for single-use, others can be used repeatedly. You simply set the card to be valid until a specific date.

Manage spending limits: The account holder can set a spending limit on a virtual credit card. If it gets stolen, it can’t be used for more than the set amount. This also prevents accidental overspending by your employees.

Two credit cards are behind a shield with a picture of a padlock on it. This conceptual illustration shows the added security with a virtual credit card.

3. Simple to Close

With a virtual credit card, you can easily close the account in the event of a data breach. Most card providers allow you to lock or delete a virtual account number if it’s compromised, which prevents anyone from making fraudulent purchases — without affecting your main credit card account. You can also then create a new card number.

In contrast, if your regular credit card is compromised, closing an account means having to get your main credit card account number reissued, and then you can continue using it. Getting a new number can be inconvenient and time-consuming, especially if you’ve set it up with several vendors to cover recurring payments.

4. You Can Get an Instant Virtual Credit Card

Major credit card companies offer instant approval for virtual credit card numbers. Companies such as Capital One and Chase enable you to create a virtual credit card for each merchant you do business with using an online tool connected to your bank account.

Virtual credit card details take the place of the real account information when you check out, but the purchase is still applied against your regular account. Essentially, you’re not getting approval for credit, because you already have that, so it’s simple to offer instant virtual credit card approval.

Best Virtual Credit Card Options

There are several apps and credit card providers that can supply virtual credit card numbers. Here are some of our top choices:

Capital One Virtual Card Relay 

This cloud-based platform manages your accounts payable. You can pay invoices with single-use virtual credit card accounts and add security by setting dollar amounts and expiration dates to each payment. 

Capital One boasts that the Virtual Card Relay can also integrate with your current payment system. Business owners can also earn rewards on payments. 

Capital One Eno

While Capital One Virtual Card Relay is specifically for corporate customers, Eno covers consumer credit card users. If you’re a Capital One customer, you can add the Eno extension to your browser to generate virtual credit card numbers for your purchases and payments. The Eno extension also tracks spending, provides suspected fraud alerts and offers 24/7 assistance.

Click To Pay

This is a checkout option for thousands of online retailers. Click To Pay covers American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover transactions across multiple devices. When you make a purchase through Click To Pay, it generates a token to shield your data.

Citi Virtual Account 

Certain Citi card users can obtain virtual account numbers to create single-use card details to be used at any merchant’s online checkout. This service is available on only some Citi cards.

vPayment 

This option from American Express is for corporate card users. vPayment creates a single-use online virtual credit card account number to complete your payments. You can add pre-authorization data for verification purposes; this includes payment amounts and date ranges.

American Express Go 

American Express Go is another option you can use if you already have physical and virtual cards for business through American Express. This is among the best virtual credit card programs for employee and contractor expenses. These virtual credit cards can be accessed through a mobile app, with the option of adding them to mobile wallets.

How to Get a Free Virtual Card 

Often a big bank will offer a free online credit card as a benefit. Log in to your credit card account and look in the “benefits” section to see if virtual account numbers are a choice. Artificial intelligence-driven apps, such as Eno and checkout options such as Click To Pay, immediately create virtual numbers and tokens.

A conceptual illustration of virtual credit card processing. A credit card hovers over a mobile phone. It’s surrounded by people working on laptops and smartphones and a signed receipt.

How to Apply for a Virtual Credit Card

Individual credit card issuers usually offer virtual card programs only for their customers and the way you apply for a free virtual card depends on the issuer. This guide can help you learn how to research and apply for a business credit card.

  • Keep in Mind
    It’s important to remember that applying for a virtual credit card isn’t the same as applying for credit. To be clear, you are applying to use your existing credit account securely for online purchasing.

Log in to your online banking or credit card account to see whether your institution offers virtual cards and review the requirements to obtain one. If you don’t have a credit card account, apply for one online.

Tracey Stepanchuk Contributing Writer at Fast Capital 360
Tracey Stepanchuk is a content creator focusing on financial management for small to medium-sized businesses. A former entrepreneur and business executive, she brings 20 years’ experience in management and technology to Fast Capital 360.
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