Password App Generates Virtual Credit Cards in Your Browser

Ensure dodgy merchants don't "lose" your credit card number

Key Takeaways

  • 1Password partnered with Virtual Credit Cards to offer virtual credit card numbers.
  • Virtual cards are tied to single merchants, so even leaked or stolen numbers can’t be reused elsewhere.
  • The feature requires 1Password’s browser extension, and is US-only for now.
Managing your virtual cards through privacy.com and 1Password

Password manager app 1Password can now generate virtual credit card numbers, letting you pay safely online without ever sharing your real credit card number.

Whenever you’re asked to enter a credit card number, 1Password’s browser plugin will offer to generate a virtual card. The actual payment still comes from your regular card, but this adds a security layer. It’s a fantastic idea, and will really help keep you safer when paying online. But just like any credit card, it can still be abused.

"Regular virtual cards are attached to your bank account and you are responsible for the payments," Joshua Browder, creator of DoNotPay, told Lifewire via direct message. "If you forget to set it properly you are still on the hook for the subscription."

How 1Password’s Virtual Cards Work

1Password is a password manager. You only have to remember the password that unlocks the app (hence the name), and the app generates super-secure passwords, stores them, and enters them automatically. You never need to use the name of your dog ever again. 

The company has partnered with Privacy.com to provide virtual cards. Currently, it’s only available in the US, although more countries should be coming soon. Additionally, you’ll need to use Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. Safari is unsupported, but that’s also coming soon.

Once you’ve created a virtual card, you can choose to store it inside 1Password for easy future use. You can set a spending limit, and check the CVV code whenever you need it. Cards are locked to the merchant you created them for, so even if the card details are leaked, they can’t be used anywhere else.

Other Ways to Stay Safe

If you prefer to stay in the Apple ecosystem, Apple Pay does something similar. Your actual credit card number is never used. Instead, Apple creates a one-time token that’s used for the transaction, whether it’s an online or real-world payment. This prevents dodgy waiters from skimming your card, but it doesn’t let you lock or administer your virtual accounts because Apple Pay doesn’t use them.

Another option may be your bank. Some banks let you create virtual cards specifically for online use. You should check with your bank to see if it offers this service, and if it does, you should consider using it.

DoNotPay

DoNotPay is a fantastic service that goes one step further. It started as a "robot lawyer," a site that would dispute parking claims on behalf of its users, helping them navigate legal and bureaucratic hurdles, while not having to overpay a lawyer for busywork. The service now does a lot more than that, including virtual cards. DNP offers you a virtual credit card number that will never, ever allow a payment. 

Why? It’s specifically designed to avoid scammy subscriptions. You know when you sign up to try a subscription like The New York Times, and it forces you to add a credit card number, even though the trial period is supposed to be "free"? DoNotPay is meant to help. Instead of entering your own card number, you enter the DNP number. Then, if anyone tries to bill you, tough.

"Regular virtual cards are attached to your bank account and you are responsible for the payments."

"DoNotPay is not in your name," says Browder, "[so you can] rest assured that you will never be on the hook for the subscription. Ultimately, you still have to spend something with these [other virtual] cards, since that’s how the bank makes money."

Stay Safe

Credit card use is climbing thanks to the pandemic, even in countries where cash has historically been preferred. Anything that can keep you safe is a bonus, and when it’s built into an already-essential app like 1Password, it’s a double win. Even if you don’t use this service, take a moment to see what other options there are for you, like Apple Pay or your bank’s own offer.