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CES: Virtual Credit Cards, Take 2


Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant travels to Las Vegas to find the best, the worst, and the most hyped gadgets at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Join her as she roams the exhibit floor for three days, with dispatches here and on Twitter @kellibgrant.

Remember the craze of temporary credit card numbers? The service, which lets customers create virtual, one-time-use numbers to avoid having their real number stolen while shopping online, made waves a few years back when e-commerce more closely resembled the Wild West than a mall. But they waned in popularity to the point where Discover nixed its program in mid-2011.

Now, MasterCard is bringing back virtual numbers and a linked app for peace of mind on mobile transactions. The globalVCard consumer offering, which will be out this spring, is a “sexier sister” to the brand’s business-focused offering of the same name, says a spokeswoman. The company also plans to launch a mobile payment option at that time.

“We think it’s timely because the U.S. is really starting to adopt alternate payment solitons, including mobile,” she says.

Consumers creating the cards will be able to restrict the cards to a specific dollar amount, limit their use to a particular number of transactions, and set an expiration date of up to 24 months. They can create them with the app on IOS, BlackBerry or Android phones or tablets, or log in securely from a computer. They can also send cards via text or email to friends or family, assuming say, that consumers would rather pay the babysitter with a virtual card instead of cash. (The feature is commonly used in the business version for employers to send card to employees.) Each transaction generates a new temporary number.

Each of the varied card numbers links back to one account, however, so users without a MasterCard-branded card in their wallet will still need to have decent enough credit to apply for one from the bank of their choice. In theory, the cards can be used anywhere — over the phone, online and even in stores. But the spokeswoman concedes the latter might be a little tough. “The cashier would have to type in the number, like they would for an older card that doesn’t swipe well,” she says. “Depending on whether the cashier is having a bad day with her boyfriend, she may not want to. But she can.”


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    • The best cdiret card is no cdiret card regardless of what the debt loving people around you may say. Anything you can do with a cdiret card can be accomplished without one. Many think they need the cdiret card for making reservations or to establish cdiret, however this is not the case. Most every bill you pay these days is reported to the cdiret bureaus. So just pay your rent and utilities on time. For a young person just starting out debt is the single largest stumbling block to your future financial well-being and long term happiness. Best to save your money and pay cash for the things you really want. I would suggest a debit card and a healthy dose of self-discipline. Good luck.

    • GlobalVCard has made it much easier to send my kids money for college, books etc. I basically set it up like an allowance system. Bonus is that they don’t have my personal credit card number and I can block their virtual card and control where they spend the money…GENIUS!

    • globalVCard is a cool app where I feel comfortable giving the credit card number online or over the phone. Can’t wait to see what other features it will have down the road

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.