Lending Club Blog

Temporary Credit Card Numbers

One way to help protect yourself from excessive, fraudulent charges on your credit card is to use a temporary number with a low credit limit. Though your liability for fraudulent purchases is limited to only $50, taking this protective step could minimize the trouble of dealing with fraud.

Many card issuers offer the ability to generate temporary numbers. I’m most familiar with the ShopSafe program from MBNA (now Bank of America), so I’ll be describing that one today. Your card may have different features, depending on the issuing bank.

ShopSafe allows you to generate a temporary credit card number with a credit limit and expiration date that you define. Charges show up on your actual card. The obvious advantage of using a temporary number is the ability to protect your actual card number and limit the damage from misuse of the temporary number.

Suppose you are planning to make an online purchase from a company you’ve never dealt with before. Rather than give them your real number, you would login to ShopSafe and generate a number for that particular transaction. So if the total purchase, with tax and shipping, was going to be $37 dollars, you could create a number with a limit of $37 that expires next month. If the company lost or stole your number, there would only be a small window of opportunity to use the number and no credit available.

Since you can generate as many numbers as you like, you might choose to use a different number for every online purchase. That way, if a fraud does occur, you’ll know which company was responsible. Numbers with longer terms can also be used for recurring payments made online. The process is so easy, and beneficial, that you may choose to use it for all transactions, even those with a trusted site. You probably feel that some companies are more trustworthy than others, but no site is totally immune from hackers.

It may seem like overkill to use a temporary credit card number for every online purchase, given the aforementioned liability limits on fraud and the relative ease with which a stolen card can be handled. Still, when you get so much from a program like ShopSafe with so little effort, using it regularly is clearly worth the effort.

What are your experiences with temporary credit card numbers?

Monday, March 23rd, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Comments (5)

  1. Curious how this idea gets around the problem with many auto
    e-commerce sites that can tell if a card number is a Mastercard,
    Amex, Visa or invalid. The first four digits usually signify what
    it is. How does this system compensate for that auto-check?

    March 23rd, 2009 at 9:37 pm

  2. @Tom: The temporary numbers generated meet the criteria you
    mentioned. In other words, since my card is a Visa, every temporary
    number generated is also a valid Visa number.

    March 24th, 2009 at 11:08 am

  3. Mike I hear that there is a biometric card that once credentialized
    can not be hacked. It allows for access to over one hundred sites
    and is driven with the use of your fingerprint. It has also met the
    Privacy regulations of the Federal Government. It is called aTRUST
    and I believe that it will become “the” way to access banking,
    health or other personal or highly confidential info data bases. S2

    March 24th, 2009 at 6:28 pm

  4. I have used this service in the past when I had an MBNA card and it
    works remarkably well. The numbers generated look just like a
    Visa/MC number and I never had any issue with acceptance at online
    merchants. It provided such safety that I am trying to remember why
    is switched to another card. I wish more companies made use of the
    service!

    March 27th, 2009 at 8:28 am

  5. Chris F:

    I believe Citicard also provides a similiar temporary account
    number feature. It’s amazing how much technology goes into both
    paper and plastic these days!

    April 13th, 2009 at 5:40 am

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