How To Use a Virtual Visa Card for Online and In-Store Transactions

Ashley Ferraro, Consumer Operations
Aug 27, 2023
 Min Read

Visa® is rapidly establishing itself as one of the most popular card networks in the U.S. Based on Statista’s 2022 transaction volume estimates for debit and credit cards, over 60% of card purchases were made using Visa cards in 2021.

Over the past few years, many card providers and banks have started issuing Visa virtual cards. While most users are comfortable using plastic or metal cards, some may not know how to use virtual cards. We have prepared this guide to discuss:

  • What virtual cards are used for
  • How to use a virtual Visa card (in person or online)
  • Where to get virtual Visa cards

What Is a Virtual Visa Card?

Most people are aware that many payment cards—credit, debit, prepaid, and gift cards—are branded by the Visa card network. 

Visa®, like Mastercard® and American Express®, is a proprietary card processing network that doesn't actually issue the card. The payment card is typically issued by a bank, financial institution, or card company, and Visa facilitates the transactions between the issuer and the merchant or business.

A virtual Visa card is an electronically generated card that uses the Visa network. It contains the typical credentials associated with a payment card, such as:

  • 16-digit card number
  • Expiration date
  • Security code (CVV/CVC)

A virtual card can be linked to the user’s bank account, credit card, or debit card as a funding source. Its main purpose is to shield your actual financial information when making online transactions. If a website encounters a security breach, the hackers may find your virtual card credentials—but not your source financial data.

What Can You Use a Virtual Visa Card For?

Virtual Visa cards can be single- or multi-use, making them suitable for:

  1. Paying for products and services online or at select physical locations
  2. Making bill payments
  3. Paying for recurring subscriptions or memberships
  4. Signing up for new subscription services

Source: Karolina Grabowska

Where Can You Use a Virtual Visa Card?

A virtual Visa card can be used online and in person—although you may not be able to pay in person with a virtual card at every location. The following sections explain how to use the virtual card in both situations.

How To Use a Virtual Visa Card Online

Online purchases classify as remote or card-not-present (CNP) transactions. 

Using a virtual credit or debit card online is similar to using a physical card—you enter your card credentials on the merchant’s website, and the payment processor verifies them to complete the transaction. 

Here’s how to use your virtual Visa card online:

  1. Go to the checkout page and proceed to pay.
  2. Select the relevant payment option, typically typically Pay With a Debit or Credit Card (Keep in mind that most e-commerce websites don’t have a Pay With Virtual Card option as the process is not different from using a conventional card).
  3. Enter the card number, CVV code, and expiration date in the relevant fields.
  4. Provide your billing address (if prompted).
  5. Complete the purchase.
A close-up shot of the Amazon app on a smartphone screen

Source: Brett Jordan

It can sometimes be tedious to manually input card numbers during online checkouts, so one virtual card provider—Privacy—offers you browser extensions that can expedite the online checkout process. Privacy’s Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browser extensions auto-fill the card credentials for you, saving you from having to look for your wallet or memorize card numbers.

How To Use a Virtual Visa Card in Stores

You can use virtual Visa cards only in stores that allow contactless payments, given the card is compatible with digital wallets like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. Note that this feature may not be available with every virtual card provider. 

Paying with a virtual card in stores is a two-step process:

  1. Load the card onto a phone-based digital wallet
  2. Use the phone to complete the payment

Refer to the following table for more details:

Process Details
Load the card onto a phone-based wallet
Some virtual cards (regardless of the branding) can be loaded onto digital wallets like Google Pay® and Apple Pay® and used for in-store and in-app purchases.

Here’s how to load the card:

1. Open your digital wallet
2. Access the Add/Load a Card or similar option
3. Add the card credentials in the provided fields
4. Provide a nickname for the card (if asked)
5. Follow the prompts to finish loading the card

The virtual card should be visible in your wallet app, along with the other loaded cards.
Use the phone to complete the payment
Mobile wallets use Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology that enables you to pay at contactless terminals.

Here’s how to make the payment:

1. Open the digital wallet app at checkout
2. Select to pay with the specific virtual card
3. Point your smartphone at the digital-payment-enabled terminal
4. Confirm the purchase (by entering a password or tapping a button, as required by your digital wallet provider)

Some stores may also offer users the option to manually enter their card credentials. In that case, share your virtual card credentials with the cashier to make the payment.

Finding Reliable Virtual Visa Card Providers

According to a 2022 report, the global market size for virtual cards was $11.7 billion, and it is expected to hit $65 billion by 2030. While these cards are gaining popularity as a secure and convenient payment method, not every provider will cater to your specific needs.

Virtual Visa cards are generally provided by:

  • Banks and card companies—Many banks and card companies offer virtual cards to eligible customers as part of their financial services. You typically need to have an account or physical card at the bank to apply for a virtual card. In most cases, the virtual card can be requested through the internet or mobile banking channels.
  • Independent card providers—Independent virtual card providers are usually bank-agnostic and allow you to request a virtual card regardless of the bank you have an account in.

Choosing an independent virtual card service is a great option if you’re looking for increased control and flexibility. You can sign up for Privacy if you want a secure, user-focused virtual card service. 

A side-angle shot of a customer placing a smartphone over a contactless payment terminal

Source: Pavel Danilyuk

Enjoy Seamless Shopping—Request a Virtual Visa Card With Privacy

Privacy is a BBB®-accredited company offering Visa and Mastercard virtual cards to U.S. residents (aged 18 and up). Forbes featured Privacy among the most customer-centric companies of 2022. The platform’s virtual cards can be used for:

  • E-commerce transactions
  • Bill and utility payments
  • Subscriptions and recurring personal or business payments

Privacy has features that make using virtual cards for payments and budget monitoring efficient and seamless. Here are some of the numerous benefits you can enjoy with Privacy:

  1. Creating Merchant-Locked and Single-Use Cards
  2. Setting spending limits for each card
  3. Closing and pausing cards instantly
  4. Real-time monitoring
  5. 1Password integration

Privacy’s browser extension for Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari speeds up checkout time and enables you to complete quick and spontaneous purchases. 

If you want to generate and manage virtual cards on the go, you can download Privacy’s Google Play or App Store app.

Privacy Merchant-Locked and Single-Use Cards

Privacy offers customizable cards with robust security features. You can set up:

  • Merchant-Locked Cards—They can be used multiple times but at one specific merchant. Merchant-Locked Cards lock to the first merchant they're used at, and any attempt to use them elsewhere will be declined. This provides additional protection in case a hacker breaches a vendor’s website and steals your virtual payment data.
  • Single-Use Cards—You can choose to generate a Single-Use Card that closes minutes after a transaction is made, rendering it useless to a potential hacker.

Spending Limits on Privacy Virtual Cards

You can set spending limits on Privacy Cards, ensuring no purchase can go over the designated limit. This feature allows you to take back control over the merchant and ensure you’re not paying more than you’ve agreed to. You can also share your Privacy Cards with trusted family members whom you’d like to allot a budget while remaining in full control of the card settings.

Instant Closing and Pausing of Privacy Cards

You can instantly close and pause/unpause Privacy Cards without affecting your real card or bank account. Use the feature when you:

  • Suspect your card has been compromised
  • Want to prevent a subscription charge from going through

While Privacy will decline the charges on a paused/closed card, you still need to contact the merchant to cancel the subscription.

Real-Time Monitoring

With Privacy, you can benefit from:

  • Real-time email and push notifications for account activities
  • A feature-rich dashboard for monitoring transactions
  • A dedicated customer support team

1Password Integration

You can take advantage of the 1Password integration to keep your passwords and financial data in a secure vault and manage them from a centralized dashboard.

A close-up shot of a cursor hovering over the word “security”

Source: Pixabay

Setting Up a Secure Privacy Account—Process

Privacy is PCI-DSS-compliant and follows stringent security standards across desktop and mobile platforms. Here’s what the account setup process entails:

  1. Access the signup page
  2. Enter the mandated Know-Your-Customer (KYC) information
  3. Link your funding source (bank account or debit card)

You can generate up to 12 new Privacy Cards each month as part of the base tier. The platform also has paid plans offering features such as cashback benefits and more virtual cards per month.

Create an account and get started with Privacy’s Virtual Cards.

Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
Checkout securely online by creating unique virtual card numbers for every purchase. Avoid data breaches, unwanted charges, and stolen credit card numbers.
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