My bank allows me to create temporary credit card numbers. I can specify the amount of money that can be charged on it as well as the expiration date.

I've used these when traveling so I wouldn't have to enter my real credit card number on a website in some random internet cafe.

There are some subscription-based services with free trials that I'd like to try out, but knowing myself I'll never remember to cancel them in time to avoid being charged. So I thought I could create a temporary number (say with 50 cents on the "card") to sign up with, and then if I forget to cancel, no big deal.

Is there any "trouble" one can get into by doing this? Any other downside that I'm not thinking of?

  • I don't really mean to debate that it's unethical or anything - but couldn't you argue that doing this is analogous to going to buy something at a store, trying to use a credit card that is expired or gets declined for whatever reason, and not being able to purchase whatever I wanted? I see this "free trial, then automatic recurring subscription" as being like that - I get 2 weeks free, then they would go to charge my card, it would be declined, and my subscription would be canceled. But based on what @JoeTaxpayer said, I guess it doesn't always work that way...
    – Jer
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 19:50

3 Answers 3


I did just what you suggest. The card company honored the charge, they told me the temporary number was solely for the purpose of assigning a number to one vendor/business. So even though I set a low limit, the number was still active and the card company paid the request. Small price to pay, but it didn't go as I wished.

For this purpose, I've used Visa/Mastercard gift cards. They are often on sale for face value and no additional fees.

  • 1
    +1 Even a temporary card number is still a valid card and unless you report that the card number has been compromised or they have some reason not to honor the charge, the card processor will allow the charge. Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 14:39
  • +1. You can't count on credit limits to stop a charge.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 14:44

If you've agreed to pay the money, then you owe them whether they have a valid credit card number of yours or not. If they want to report your debt to a collections agency and/or credit bureau, they can. Which would suck for you. It may not be that likely over $9.99 or whatever, but my point is that it's still a small risk even with a temporary card number.


You're knowingly providing a payment method which has insufficient funds to meet the terms of the contract, because you are too lazy to comply with the contract. That's unethical and fraudulent behavior.

Will you get in trouble? I don't know. I'd suggest getting acquainted with an electronic calendar that can remind you to do things.

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