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Revolut launches disposable virtual cards to fight online fraud

Card details renew after every online payment

Revolut customers can use a unique card number for every online transaction after the challenger bank introduced disposable virtual bank cards.

The new feature on the Revolut app produces a different number sequence for each transaction, making it more difficult for fraudsters to steal a customer’s bank card details.

Which? takes a look at how the disposable virtual card works and whether it’s a viable long-term solution to the UK’s growing online fraud problem.


How the disposable virtual card works

Revolut Premium customers – who pay £6.99 a month – can now add a virtual card option to their banking app.

When you’re shopping online, you won’t need to use your plastic Revolut bank card and can instead generate one-time card details – including a 16-digit card number, expiry date and CVV.

After you use it for a purchase, the virtual card will be destroyed and a fresh set of details will be generated.

You’ll be limited to making five purchases with disposable card numbers each day. However, you’ll still be able to use your plastic Revolut prepaid card for online purchases as normal.

The new option will work alongside Revolut’s other security features, like the ability to block and unblock your card in the app and using your phone’s location to help identify suspicious transactions.

How do returns work with a virtual card?

If you need to refund something you purchased online with a disposable virtual card, Revolut says it will be able to trace the transaction and put the money back in your account.

Can I pay for Spotify and Netflix with a virtual card?

Revolut’s disposable virtual card will not work with subscription services, such as Spotify and Netflix, or any other type of continuous recurring payments, as the card details change after every payment.

For these types of services, you’ll need to use the details on your physical bankcard.

Can I use a virtual card to pay for car hire or hotels?

Certain merchants – including car rentals and hotels – will require pre-authorisation for transactions, where a temporary hold is placed on a payment without charging your card.

Revolut told Which? that its disposable virtual card can’t be used with merchants that require pre-authorisation.

Be wary when you need proof of payment

When you’re buying tickets, you may need proof of purchase by showing the card you used for payment at the box office or ticket machine.

Be careful using the disposable virtual card in these circumstances, as you may run into difficulties collecting your tickets.

Does the virtual card offer shopping protection?

Both the prepaid cards and virtual cards issued by Revolut are from Mastercard.

Revolut confirmed shoppers will have protection under Mastercard’s chargeback scheme if something goes wrong with a purchase online.

Why are disposable cards being introduced?

Shoppers in the UK are increasingly at risk of card scams. Card-not-present (CNP) fraud on UK-issued cards jumped 9% in 2016 to £423m, according to Financial Fraud Action UK.

Banking security must evolve to keep up. While the big high street banks are moving towards biometric innovations, tech start-ups such as Revolut are redesigning how we use cards.

Vlad Yatsenko, co-founder and chief technology officer at Revolut says the random generation of card details is a long-term option for combatting crime.

Mr Yatsenko said: ‘It will take approximately 800 years before we begin to run out of 16-digit card numbers, so we view disposable virtual cards as a sustainable, long-term solution to tackling online card fraud.”

But disposable cards can’t replace vigilance from consumers. Whenever you’re using your card online, you should check your bank statements frequently, monitor your credit rating and stay alert to unusual activity.

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