Best Virtual Debit Cards

Here's a rundown of the best virtual debit cards.

Updated: May 18, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

|
Rebecca Goodman

Edited By

Rebecca Goodman

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Are you thinking about getting a virtual debit card? With the meteoric rise in popularity of mobile payment systems, physical debit cards may soon become a thing of the past.

But how do electronic debit cards work and what are they? Where can they be used, why should they be used, and how safe are they?

In this guide to virtual cards, I'll take a look at everything you need to know about how they work along with my comparison of the best virtual debit cards available in the UK.

ProviderScoreDetails
1. Wise★★★★★Click Here
2. Revolut★★★★★Click Here
3. Monese★★★★★Click Here
4. Monzo★★★★Click Here
5. Skrill★★★★Click Here
6. Starling Bank★★★★Click Here
7. US Unlocked★★★★Click Here
8. Wallester Business★★★★Click Here
9. Capital One★★★★★Click Here
10. iCard★★★★★Click Here

The pros and cons of virtual cards

To start with, let’s look into the pros & cons of the UK’s top virtual debit cards.

Pros 

✅ Security: a random card number generated by a virtual debit card will provide an extra layer of protection to your online purchases

✅ Convenience: your physical debit card is not required for in-store purchases because your mobile device can be used as payment

✅ Speed: you may be able to start using your digital bank card as soon as your account is activated

✅ Flexibility: you may use a prepaid card or you can connect a virtual card to your bank account or credit card

✅ Options on currencies: you can avoid costly currency conversion costs when making purchases from foreign merchants by using a prepaid debit card that can be loaded with funds in many currencies

Cons 

❌ Face to face help: you may not be able to speak to someone in person if you're struggling with a virtual debit card associated with a digital wallet

❌ Constraints on the use of the card: many banks and credit card companies have restrictions on the total amount of purchases that can be made with a contactless card

Best virtual debit cards — Reviewed

A virtual card is an electronic version of a traditional debit card. Instead of carrying a physical wallet, you may keep the card in your phone's digital wallet. When you open an account with a digital bank or use a prepaid card, you get a virtual card.

Cards are issued with unique numbers, verification codes, and expiration dates, yet the whole process takes place in cyberspace.

Digital cards are essential just digital copies of traditional bank cards which you can keep on your phone.

We're all used to using our debit cards at ATMs and physical shops, as well as while shopping online, but virtual cards give you the option of leaving your wallet at home.

In the UK, where can you get a virtual debit card?

Digital and mobile-only banks are at the forefront of the shift towards virtual debit cards. Some of them include Wise, Monese, and Skrill, all of which I've looked at below.

Each one functions like a debit card in theory, and some even provide prepaid and one-time usage options.

Typically, digital cards provide the same exchange rates and costs on multi-currency purchases as debit cards. Aside from being on your phone, there is no other difference.

With that said, some of our favourites are below:

ProviderMonthly CostVirtual Cards AvailableInterest on Credit Balances
1. WiseFree3No
2. RevolutFrom £04 multi-use cards every 30 days until you reach a maximum of 20Up to 4.75% AER gross (variable)
3. MoneseFrom £01No
4. MonzoFrom £55 (Plus, Premium, or Business Plus account only)4.60% AER (variable) Plus & Premium account
5. SkrillFree1No
6. Starling BankFree53.25% AER / 3.19% gross on positive balances up to and including £5,000. No credit interest on positive balances above £5,000.
7. US Unlocked$6.50 (£5.15)1No
8. Wallester BusinessFrom £0Free — up to 300 virtual cards; Premium — up to 3000 virtual cards; Platinum — up to 15,000 virtual cards Enterprise SuiteNo
9. Capital OneFree1No
10. iCardFrom £02 free virtual cards with an option to store and use up to 20No

1. Wise — Best overall virtual debit card

Leaving the country? Check out Wise when researching virtual debit card options. Wise's virtual multi-currency card offers competitive foreign exchange rates.

You can open a Wise personal account online for free, and for £5 you can also order a physical debit card. Customers can have three reusable virtual cards that can be added to mobile payment systems like Apple Pay.

If you order a debit card, it can be used for contactless purchases and cash withdrawals at ATMs in 175 different countries with a Wise multi-currency account. A virtual card is also available, with all the same benefits plus additional protection and portability.

Your Wise digital card may be used everywhere that accepts Apple Pay or Google Pay, in any local currency. Currency is converted for you at the card's standard mid-market exchange rate. No additional costs are added for making an overseas transaction, and the currency conversion charge is minimal.

In addition, there is no need to pay a conversion charge if you already have the currency in your account.

All in all, the Wise digital card is a flexible, low-cost option for those who are travelling, working, or studying abroad. 

Opening a Wise account online is fast and simple, and there are no ongoing costs involved.

2. Revolut — Top for instant availability after signing up

Revolut, a popular digital accounts provider, has many options for virtual cards.

When you sign up for a Revolut account, you'll get a digital card which can be added to your Apple Pay or Google Pay wallet immediately, eliminating the need to wait for a real card to come in the post.

Single-use cards are also available from Revolut. These are one-time-use debit cards that exist solely in cyberspace. However, after you've used your virtual card, you won't need to apply for another one. Once the transaction is complete, the information is updated so that you may continue shopping.

A Standard Revolut account is free, whereas premium accounts cost money each month. 

You may be able to create both a permanent virtual card and one or more temporary virtual cards, depending on the kind of account you have. The Revolut mobile app can be used to control any kind of Revolut card, whether digital or physical.

3. Monese — Excellent for extra protection

Monese provides both a digital replica of a physical debit card and independent virtual cards. Extra protection while making purchases is provided by the unique 16-digit number on these cards.

Free virtual card activation is limited to one per Monese account. Take note: your e-card will never expire.

However, unlike other virtual cards like Wise or Revolut, you cannot simply replace it if it is lost or stolen; instead, you can only ‘lock' it to prevent further use. As a result, it is not “disposable” in the same sense as the products provided by Wise and Revolut.

Google Pay and Apple Pay allow you to use your virtual card in both online and in-store purchases. The Monese app makes it easy to keep track of purchases, lock and unlock your card, and get push alerts whenever you make a payment.

4. Monzo — Great for premium users

Virtual cards are available to Monzo customers only if they have a Plus, Premium, or Business Plus account. The popular UK-based digital bank also offers a good selection of banking services and products.

Premium account holders can create up to five virtual cards at once for both online and in-store use. Plus accounts cost £5 per month, while Premium accounts cost £15 per month. Unfortunately, you can’t get this with Monzo's free current accounts. 

In contrast to the standard debit card that comes with a bank account, each Monzo virtual card has its own set of identifying details. 

You can also use ‘pots' with as many as five virtual cards at once. With these, allocate a certain amount of money in your account for a certain purpose (such as savings or regular expenditure). Each pot can have its own virtual card and is also compatible with Apple Pay and Google Pay.

5. Skrill — Popular for budgeting

Skrill is not a debit card but rather a prepaid card. It’s also a “challenger bank”.

You'll need to add funds before you can make purchases, but because you can never spend more than what's available on the card, overspending is impossible and it's great if you want to stick to a budget.

Skrill, a specialist supplier of digital wallet services, mainly offers the Skrill Virtual Prepaid Mastercard.

A 16-digit number will be assigned to it and stored in your Skrill account or other mobile wallet. You may use it to shop online or in-store at any merchant that accepts Mastercard or contactless payments. However, you can't use it to withdraw cash from an ATM.

As the name of the card implies, a balance must be added before it can be used and that it must be replenished when it is depleted. You may, however, pay with your existing Skrill balance.

6. Starling Bank — Best for versatility

Moving forward, Starling is another pretty good choice that works in a similar way to Monzo.

Like most of the options here, you'll be able to create your own dedicated ‘savings spaces' which are specific savings pots for different things.

Most virtual cards let you freeze and unfreeze your card whenever you want, and Starling is exactly the same, so when you've paid for something, you can immediately freeze your virtual card until the next time you need to use it, ultimately ensuring your funds are safe.

You can also set up automated payments by clicking on the ‘bill manager' tool — all you have to do is connect your card and input the amount of cash and the date and amount, they’ll take care of the rest.

7. US Unlocked — Best for overseas shopping

If you're someone who likes to do a lot of shopping in the US, you've probably noticed that it's not exactly the most streamlined process — excessive fees for international shipping and most stores don't ship to the UK.

Potential fraud is usually the reason for this, so to combat it, you could use the prepaid US Unlocked virtual card. It allows you to shop as if you were in the States — accessing thousands of retail partners like Gap, Pandora, Walgreens, Walmart, and so on.

Aside from this, though, you can sign up for American streaming services, too, so you can watch all your favourite movies that might be exclusive to the US without needing a third-party VPN.

8. Wallester Business — Best for business

Next on our list, we have the Wallester Business virtual card, which is generally geared towards any kind of business looking for a better means of tracking payments.

They've got a pretty intuitive mobile app where you're able to do all the things you'd expect, like track expenses, generate reports, and even approve transactions, and every transaction that gets processed will be recorded automatically in your Wallester Business account.

In case you've got any worries regarding employees using their cards inappropriately, the app will notify you in real time whenever anything is purchased using the card, so you'll always know how your money is being spent

9. Capital One — Best for security

You've got to install an extension on your browser (or just use the Capital One app) to use this virtual card service, but security is definitely the name of the game with this card.

Naturally, you're going to need to generate virtual card numbers, and Capital One makes you confirm your identity and then register a credit card, which'll then get used as the funding source for everything you and your employees purchase with the virtual cards.

Fortunately, you’re able to lock this card to a particular merchant, essentially meaning that no other vendor or even potentially a hacker would be able to use it.

10. iCard — Great for European countries

Lastly, our final option is iCard, which gives you a multicurrency account that you’re able to control both your business and personal finances from — whether you prefer using your mobile phone or computer.

You're able to open three different accounts with iCard, and they support a several different currencies, too —  BGN (iCard is a Bulgarian-based service, so that's why this currency is first), USD, EUR, GBP, CZK, PLN, and RON. To use your account to make transactions, you first need to add funds to your account. 

In terms of getting funds onto your iCard virtual card, you’re able to use a credit or debit card for this and can then send funds from literally anywhere to your iCard IBAN.

All the best virtual cards come with physical cards, so it’s nice to know that you’ll be getting a contactless one that you can use without any kind of monthly fee with iCard.

Their service is primarily free, but there is a premium service that lets you do things like set spending limits and receive generally improved customer service — the €9.99 monthly fee might be a bit steep for any of you small business owners, though.

How do virtual debit cards work?

Virtual credit cards not only make online purchases easier, but they may also increase your safety.

The 16-digit card number on a virtual card is produced randomly and, in many situations, may be regenerated instantly.

Information used to build a virtual card is kept encrypted, making it impossible to trace back to the original physical card. If your virtual card number were ever compromised, you could simply cancel the card and save the inconvenience of cancelling and replacing your actual card.

What's the difference between a digital, virtual, and throwaway card?

Virtual cards, disposable cards, and digital cards are all phrases that may be used to refer to the same thing when discussing electronic versions of traditional plastic cards.

Virtual cards are digital substitutes for traditional credit cards that exist only in the app on your phone. 

Disposable cards are another name for virtual cards that can be rapidly regenerated; after one use, they are erased and replaced with fresh cards.

Digital cards often refer to the use of a physical card in conjunction with a mobile wallet service such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. You can now use your phone to make purchases, but unlike a virtual or disposable card, the numbers on your actual card and your digital representation will match. 

How can I make a virtual debit card?

Virtual or digital cards can be set up in a few different ways, each dependent on the chosen card and the user's preferences.

There are 2 key steps: 

Step 1: register for a virtual debit card service.

Virtual debit cards are available immediately after online account opening and verification; examples include Wise, Monzo, and Revolut. 

It's possible that you'll have to place an order for a physical card before your virtual card can be created, but in any case, you should be able to start using it as soon as it's ready.

Step 2: use a mobile payment system.

As we've already established, another option is to convert your real card into a digital card by using a mobile wallet. 

Using a mobile payment system like Apple Pay or Google Pay, you can use your usual bank card to make purchases. Simply launch your chosen mobile wallet software and follow the on-screen instructions to add the new card. 

In many cases, you can skip entering your card data by scanning the card using your phone's camera.

Who benefits from a virtual card?

There are several situations in which digital cards might be useful. If you like to leave the home with as little as possible in your pockets, a virtual card may allow you to get by with only your phone and your keys.

If you are concerned about the safety of your credit card information, a virtual card may be the best option for you.

If you're worried about spending too much, remember that making a purchase with a virtual card should be the same price as making one with an actual card when utilising the tap-and-pay method.

Last but not least, Virtual cards come in useful for paying for subscriptions; just pay with a disposable card and you won't be charged again the following month or year. You can also re-subscribe at any time, but you'll need to use a new payment method to avoid having your old card automatically charged without your knowledge.

Related Guides:

FAQs

Why use a virtual debit card?

Is there a PayPal prepaid card option?

Where else other than TD Bank can you get a VDC?

Where do prepaid cards and debit cards vary virtually?

Why are people favouring prepaid debit cards online?

What are the negatives of virtual debit cards?

Is there a way to move funds from PayPal to Google Wallet?

Is it possible to steal a virtual card?

Are e-gift cards against the law?

Is there a CVV on a virtual card?

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