📣 New on Brex — business banking that takes every dollar further >

Resources Home


What You Need To...

Resources Home

How does a virtual credit card work?

Virtual credit cards offer you protection when you need it the most.
Find out how they offer an extra layer of security when making purchases online.

A virtual credit card can improve the security of account holders when making online purchases. Virtual credit cards are similar to physical credit cards but offer further protection and peace of mind by preventing sensitive details from falling into the hands of criminals.

What is a virtual credit card?

A virtual card is a unique card number that's generated in a digital format and is associated to your account.

A user can enter this 16-digit credit card number upon online checkout instead of their physical credit card number. The transaction then appears on the account statement just as if a physical credit card had made the transaction.

The benefits of virtual credit cards

Some virtual credit card providers allow users to set a separate expiration date and credit limit from their physical credit card. Virtual credit cards offer an extra level of security against criminals attempting to steal information via insecure connections or data breaches.

If the account holder needs to cancel their card for any reason, a virtual credit card can make the process much easier. You can usually lock or delete them with a click if they become compromised.

When a physical credit card becomes lost, stolen, or compromised, the account holder has to cancel it, wait for a new one to be issued, and then enter a dispute process. With a virtual card, the cancellation process is much more straightforward. Upon cancellation, the account holder can maintain access to their credit account through their physical card.

Things to consider when getting a virtual credit card

Virtual credit cards aren’t entirely fraud-proof. It is still important that users remain vigilant with their credit accounts, checking their statements regularly for any unauthorized transactions.

Virtual credit cards are also designed specifically for online and card-not-present transactions. These are transactions where the merchant does not see the physical credit card used for the purchase. Examples include electronic, mobile, telephone, and mail order transactions.

The process of returning items could also be more difficult. Many merchants require the same card number to process refunds. If you used virtual credit card details for the purchase, and these have since expired, then you may not be able to receive a monetary reimbursement and will have to accept store credit instead.

There could also be complications when using virtual credit cards for transactions that require verification at a later stage, such as car rentals or hotel bookings. As the virtual and physical credit card numbers would not match, this could cause issues for the merchant when verifying that the transaction came from the same credit account.

How to get a virtual credit card

Brex gives you instant access to your virtual corporate credit card upon approval. This allows you to issue virtual cards to each member of your team, with the ability to control spend by setting specific limits.

Alongside the additional protection offered by a virtual credit card, the Brex corporate credit card offers 24/7 fraud monitoring and protection.