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I found this old question / answer that refer to the same problem: I used to generate a new virtual credit card number with BofA's ShopSafe service, set the credit limit / expiration date and I could be sure that the merchant couldn't charge more / later than those limits. This was a very, very useful service - naturally, BofA discontinued it (and called it "caring about my security").

Is this a trend in the industry? Are all the trustworthy issuers (read: large, well-known companies, like BofA) walking away from cards that provide this set of features?

Any suggestions on how to find this feature in a card?

  • My first thought was "oh dear, this may come off as a shopping/product reco question" and then I see the 4 close votes present. Yeah, it seems like it would be difficult to answer without naming off lists of products, which are off-topic here because they go stale so quickly. But if product recos are "giving a man a fish", maybe someone can write a "How to find" guide akin to "teaching a man to fish"... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 30 '19 at 18:10
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    @Harper I'd be fine either with a list of product names as answers or a way to identify them. I'm not sure how to phrase the question better - I'm not looking for product endorsements but virtual credit cards are (were) a thing and they're tied to issuers. I'm not sure it's even possible to tak about them without naming those issuers. – xxbbcc Sep 30 '19 at 18:12
  • But a list of product names would be off-topic here, hence the close votes. I took the liberty of editing, to pivot your question into one that should be simpatico, which hopefully should quell any more closes and get you some insight. If you hate it, you can roll it back. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 30 '19 at 18:20
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    @Harper no problem, thank you. I don't see close votes on this SE site yet (low rep) so I didn't realize there were any. Anyway, I like your edit, appreciate it. – xxbbcc Sep 30 '19 at 18:37
  • I suspect merchants are crying foul. I've run into sites that won't accept a prepaid card number; it may be they can detect and reject single-use ones in the same fashion. I also expect single-use tokenized stuff like Apple/Google Pay is eating into the utility. – ceejayoz Oct 1 '19 at 14:25
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I'm writing an answer to expand on what @ceejayoz wrote in a comment on your question.

You asked,

Is this a trend in the industry? Are all the trustworthy issuers (read: large, well-known companies, like BofA) walking away from cards that provide this set of features?

Ultimately, yes - this is a trend. And there are a few reasons behind it, but basically it's because there are solutions available now which do a better job at the actual function you're trying to fulfill.

Historically, consumers generated and used single-use card numbers with fixed (low) limits as a way to protect their real credit card number from getting stolen during a transaction, and/or as a way to "limit" what a merchant could (potentially fraudulently) take from their account.

However, these virtual credit card numbers are an imperfect solution. There's essentially nothing stopping someone from stealing it and using it before the merchant can, once you've generated it: there's still a portion of the process that's vulnerable, because it's being done by users through user interfaces. That means there's a (fail-able) human element involved.

Further, virtual credit cards with artificially low limits could cause issues with merchants who may have legitimate reasons to charge you more or otherwise to alter the transaction after the fact.

Luckily, there are better solutions these days: most notably, electronic wallets (i.e. Apple Pay or Google Pay) which essentially do a better, automatic version of the same concept, but without the same issues. Essentially, when you use your card via an electronic wallet, the merchant gets a token to use for the transaction, so your actual card number is protected. That token is basically useless outside the scope it was created for, so it's more secure than a single-use card number. Also, since it's created and used automatically, and never directly available at the user interface, it's harder to steal (no one can shoulder-surf and write it down). Further, merchants get more flexibility to manage the transaction than they had with a single use card number, so it avoids the potential issues for merchants, as well.

These changes have lead to the trend you're seeing - card issuers are phasing out the single-use-card function because - for the most part - all parties involved (merchant, consumer, bank(s)) are better off by not using it any more, and using electronic wallets instead.

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  • I wonder whether this was ever used by a large enough fraction of customers to justify keeping it around. And I'd wonder the same thing about electronic wallets :-) – jamesqf Mar 12 at 16:20
  • This does nothing whatsoever for card not present purchases however which are one of the most severe fraud vectors in the credit card system. – Vality Mar 12 at 19:58
  • @Vality That's a good point. Arguably, there are other recent changes/advancements that reduce their importance though (i.e. some merchants who may have depended on card not present transactions are starting to accept p2p payments or other methods of getting paid). – dwizum Mar 12 at 20:08
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According to this post on reddit:

BofA ending ShopSafe

It says

BoA is discontinuing ShopSafe.

I have been having a lot of issues as well getting virtual debit accounts via Stripe. Similar to what you're trying to do.

The conclusion that I came up with is two-fold:

1) Anti-money laundering - the regulators are cracking down on institutes on this. It's forcing them to be more risk-averse.

2) Charge Backs - If a retailer gets too many disputed chargers it can affect their rating and then get shut down.

It looks like this is not just BoA stopping things like this but most institutes. In a bid to reduce risk :(

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