After reading our recent post about how cashing a Snuggie rebate check could cost you $150, a reader e-mailed to ask for clarification on my advice for using a one-time credit card number to avoid recurring and other fraudulent charges.
Adam writes, "I contacted my credit card company, inquiring about doing this (NOT to buy a Snuggie ha ha) and they had absolutely NO clue what I was talking about. Could you please provide any additional information, such as, if only specific cards offer this or more detailed information about the 'service'."
While I was surprised that his company didn't have a clue, it wasn't a shock that they don't offer a One Time Use credit card number since the service is, as of now, limited to several banks and card issuers. According to The Finance Buff Web site, you can get a one time use credit card number from Citibank, Bank of America or Discover.
To create one on Discover, sign in to your account and click on "Tools & Advice." From there scroll down until you see "Secure Online Account Numbers," which will take you to a page which offers a desktop based version and an online one that works right in your browser.
The Web version is great for infrequent use but if you plan to use a secure online account number for all your phone and Internet purchases it's worth downloading the desktop version which launches automatically at checkout. After you pick the version you want to use, you only need to enter the amount and an expiration date and presto; secure one-time use credit card number.
If you're concerned about not having easy access to the credit card number used, don't be, you can view purchases made with previously generated numbers by opening up the application and clicking on "Past Purchases."
The steps are almost identical at Citibank and Bank of America where the only difference is what the one-time credit card number service is called. Citibank names this service, "Virtual Account Numbers" and at Bank of America this is known as Shopsafe.
If, like Adam, your credit card doesn't offer a one time use number service and you don't want to switch banks you're not out of luck because PayPal will let you do the same thing for free.
Gear Diary walks through the steps to using the PayPal Plug-In to generate secure one time use credit cards with a free PayPal account. Another benefit to using PayPal is that you can link the secure card to your checking account, but still enjoy the protections that credit cards offer for online purchases.
There you have it, no matter what bank issues your credit card using a secure one-time use credit card is easy and free.
Just think of it; if you use this service anytime you buy online or over the phone, you'll never have to worry about being billed for recurring subscriptions, having your number re-used by hackers or appropriated for a rebate check scam.
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