5 Best Virtual Credit Cards In The UK 2024 (+ Pros & Cons)

Protect your accounts with our top-secret digital credit cards list…

Updated: June 26, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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This understandably might make you wary of using your card online. Even if an online store takes every precaution to protect your privacy, there is no way to know for sure that hackers will not try to compromise its security in the future.

As a result, demand for credit card products that use secured numbers has increased, and virtual credit cards have become more popular.

Much of what you need to know about electronic credit cards can be found in this article. As well as a quick introduction to virtual credit cards, we will show you the best solutions for both personal and business transactions.

So, let us go do some special-agent training.

Card NameScoreDetails
1. M&S Bank Shopping Plus Credit Card★★★★★Learn more
2. Barclaycard Forward Card★★★★★Learn more
3. American Express Nectar Credit Card★★★★★Learn more
4. HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card★★★★Learn more
5. NatWest Credit Card★★★★Learn more

At a Glance, Pros and Cons

Let’s look into the pros & cons of the UK’s top virtual credit cards?

ProsCons
✅ Separates you further from identity thieves 👓.❌ The ugly? Proving a purchase is not always easy.
✅ Spending limits useful for planning/risk management.❌ You may find it harder getting refunds.
✅ Your personal data safety increases.

5 Best Virtual Credit Cards In The UK 2024 — Reviews

Next, what is a “virtual” credit card? 

A virtual credit card is a substitute credit card number that protects your real card details. This virtual number offers further protection while making online purchases and makes it simpler to manage spending.

Pro Tip: Limit what you can spend on each virtual credit card or set an expiration date to safeguard your primary credit card information from identity thieves. How? Use a separate CCN for each business you buy at.

Find our favorites below ✅:

1. M&S Bank Shopping Plus Credit Card — Best virtual card for online shoppers and M&S shoppers

M&S Bank Shopping Plus Credit Card

M&S Bank Shopping Plus Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £500
Representative % APR (variable)
23.9% APR
  • 0% interest on purchases for up to 18 months.
  • 0% on balance transfers for 15 months, available for 90 days from account opening (2.99% fee applies, minimum £5).
  • Collect M&S points every time you use your card.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 23.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 23.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

Top of our list is the M&S Shopper Plus virtual credit card; take advantage of a no-interest deal, racking up store points. 

This versatile rewards credit card comes with a lengthy initial 0% APR term on both purchases and balance transfers.

Those looking to make large purchases on credit, consolidate existing credit card debt to reduce interest costs, and earn points on daily purchases could consider applying for this card — which could reward you up to £220 when you switch.

Those who shop often at Marks & Spencer will profit the most from the card, since loyalty points can be redeemed for vouchers that can be used either in-store or online. 

It is possible to rack up points with almost every purchase, but M&S is where you will get the most bang for your buck. If you would prefer to have perks you can use in other ways, you may want to choose a credit card with cash back or a more adaptable rewards program.

Keep in mind, that adding a new cardholder does not cost anything and may increase the pace at which you earn rewards. You alone are responsible for any charges made to the account as credit cards cannot be shared.

ProsCons
✔️ Extended interest-free purchases/transfers for 30 days.❌ Only for loyal M&S holders.
✔️ No yearly fee.
✔️ Regularly low, market-competitive rates.

2. Barclaycard Forward Card — Top virtual credit card for those building a credit score

Barclaycard Forward Card

Barclaycard Forward Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £50
Representative % APR (variable)
33.9% APR
  • 0% interest on purchases for 3 months (from the date you open your account).
  • Credit limit £50 to £1,200.
  • Minimum repayment £5.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 33.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 33.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

Our next spy-worthy virtual card is the Barclaycard Forward Card (formerly the Initial Card). It has the potential to be a useful tool in building a positive credit history if you’re a responsible, informed holder. 

This means, if you have little to no credit history, the Barclaycard Forward Card can a great choice. If you have a Barclaycard, you may get exclusive discounts on movies (James Bond, for instance), TV series, and more.

For consumers with little or no credit history, Barclaycard offers a “credit-building” option in the shape of the Barclays Forward Card (formerly known as the Initial Card). There is no annual fee and a 0% intro APR on purchases made during the first three months.

Tip 💡: Your mission, should you choose to accept: The initial credit limit of £50 is modest compared to other credit cards, but is normal for “credit-builder” cards. Standardized rates are estimated to be 33.9%. If you go above your predetermined credit limit, it might hit your credit rating, so be careful.

If you take advantage of the 0% APR offer, you should know that the usual interest rate will be charged to any outstanding debt at a fairly high rate once the promotional period finishes.

Since this kind of functionality is so uncommon in the credit-building sector, it is one of the card's key selling factors. You may be eligible for an interest rate reduction of 3% after the first year if you pay on time every month thanks to the price guarantee. After two years of on-time payments, you may be eligible for a further 2% reduction.

Barclaycard holders now have use of Barclaycard Entertainment, which provides discounts on over 3,500 yearly events including concerts, comedy performances, and family trips.

All in all, if you are looking for your first credit card or want to boost your score, or save the world, you could do worse to check out Barclays' Forward card.

ProsCons
✔️ No interest for three months.❌ High APR, typical of credit-building cards.
✔️ Free trial of Apple Music, TV+, and Fitness+ for a full five months.❌ Overdue fees of £12.
✔️ Pre-sale and discounts for live events.
✔️ Credit scores unaffected by eligibility checks/applications.

3. American Express Nectar Credit Card — Excellent support

American Express Nectar Credit Card

American Express Nectar Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £700
Representative % APR (variable)
35.6% APR
  • Annual fee £25 (£0 in your first year).
  • Earn Nectar points.
  • Invite friends, get rewarded.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 30.0% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 35.6% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

If you want a rewards credit card with flexible choices and little maintenance, the Nectar card — which made the list of one of our favourite overall reward cards — might be a good choice. 

You can spend your Nectar points at a broad selection of shops on the high street and online, and you can earn points while making purchases (on top of the points you would usually receive when you swipe your standard Nectar card at Sainsbury's and other designated locations).

If you achieve the minimal spending requirements, the Amex Nectar Card might provide you with a very valuable welcome points bonus.

Using this card may also boost the value of your Nectar points in a number of different ways. You may earn 5,000 points for each person you refer, up to a maximum of 90,000 points each year. 

Special Tip 📓: Getting a second Amex card, maybe for a spouse, means you can rack up points on the couple's combined spending as you would with any rewards card. It is important to remember that credit cards in the UK may only be opened in a single person's name, therefore you will be solely responsible for any purchases made with the card.

If you carry a balance from month to month, the interest you pay on any credit card with rewards points will be greater. However, you may put off paying interest on new purchases for a whole month if you pay off your balance in full every month.

ProsCons
✔️ The quality of American Express's customer service is often praised.❌ A high annual percentage rate of interest on consumer loans.
✔️ Receive benefits for making repeated purchases.❌ It is likely that an application will be accepted if you have a low credit score.
✔️ Up to 20,000 Initial Bonus Points.

4. HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card — 27 months of no interest

HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card

HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £500
Representative % APR (variable)
23.9% APR
  • 0% interest up to 27 months.
  • Balance transfer fee 2.99% (£5 minimum).
  • No annual fee.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 23.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 23.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

This entry may be good for those looking for credit cards without debt transfer fees. Balance transfer fees, which are typically between 2% and 3%, are waived with these cards. 

Many 0% APR balance transfer deals with no transfer fees have shorter terms. But if they are prepared to give you enough time to pay off your debt, they are the least expensive option. As long as no further funds are added, they are effectively free.

HSBC's no-fee offer is the finest of its kind. 0% Balance transfers made within the first 60 days after account opening are not subject to a balance transfer fee. It is usually as easy as asking for a transfer when you initially apply.

Due to shared ownership between HSBC and first direct, M&S, and John Lewis, balance transfers are not permitted between these credit card issuers.

This card is very standard, with the exception of the exceptional balance transfer offer. The fees and charges for doing a U-turn are the norm for the business. After the debt has been paid off, you may choose to close the account and replace it with a card that offers better rewards.

You can connect your HSBC Home&Away card to Apple Pay before you get it, but you probably will not use it for anything but HSBC Home&Away because of the restricted number of discounts you will have access to.

All in all, this card is a good option for reducing debt quickly and cheaply. As of this writing, however, only a select number of partner sites are accessible. They even recycle their plastic! 

ProsCons
✔️ Customers of HSBC consistently give the bank excellent marks for its service.❌ Regular rates and fees on this card are very ordinary, with the exception of the introductory balance transfer APR. It does what it is supposed to, but you should not retain it.
✔️ Since there will be no interest charged for almost a year, you can focus only on eliminating your present credit card debt.❌ This offer is not available everywhere… Having consumers who use balance transfer credit cards that charge a fee is obviously beneficial to HSBC.
✔️ You will have three months to pay for anything you buy.
✔️ No annual fees or balance transfer costs.
✔️ If you transfer your credit card amount to the HSBC card, the bank will not charge you any interest for 16 months, giving you more time to pay off your debt.

5. NatWest Credit Card — Usually all come with good international rates

NatWest Credit Card

NatWest Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £250
Representative % APR (variable)
12.9% APR
  • Low rates on purchases and balance transfers.
  • No balance transfer fees.
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 12.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 12.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

International espionage requires good tools tailor-made for overseas jobs. If you use a NatWest credit card, you may be able to avoid paying additional fees or maintaining a high APR on your international purchases. 

Going hand in hand with your spy dress suit, the standard NatWest Credit Card offers low interest rates, no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees, making it a convenient card to have on hand for both domestic and international transactions.

The card's flexibility and long-term simplicity — and £175 offer for switching over — make it appealing to those who do not want to give their credit card much attention.

You will not find any tempting introductory 0% deals here, which is great if you do not want to have to worry about remembering to switch cards after the promotional period finishes. Instead, this card provides low, stable, but variable rates for both purchases and balance transfers.

The bad news is that if you need to transfer debt or are planning a significant purchase in the near future, you may be able to find better deals elsewhere. In a same vein, there is a broader selection of specialist cards available to those that put a priority on accruing points and other incentives.

Changing your credit card provider to NatWest will not cost you anything. There is no grace period before interest is charged, so if you know you will not be able to pay it off fast, you should check into a 0% APR balance transfer deal.

This card is great for both short-term and long-term home and trip spending due to its lack of international transaction fees and automated currency conversion at Mastercard's standard exchange rates.

ProsCons
✔️ No surprise fees for your overseas purchase.❌ 3% fee for ATM withdrawals.
✔️ Interest rate reductions on purchases.❌ Interest charged on cash withdrawals until the balance is repaid in full.
✔️ No yearly fee.❌ It’s also added to your purchase balance until your monthly payment is made.

Britain’s Top Virtual Credit Cards — Buying Guide

Let’s explore these services further as a topic. 

Why virtual credit cards are being used…

In the United Kingdom, the use of debit and credit cards has surpassed cash as the most popular payment method. 

By 2020, consumers will be used to making payments with the simple tap of a contactless card or smartphone using Apple/Google Pay. 

Trying to locate your card might be a problem in and of itself. Virtual cards are now widely accepted in the UK financial system, which is becoming regulated as more firms use them.

People are increasingly adopting online banking services and less often visiting bank facilities.

Given the abundance of misinformation, we have compiled a purchasing guide with useful insights and advice, including the best virtual cards currently on the market. In case you are unfamiliar with virtual cards and their many benefits, we have offered a small guide below to getting started 👇.

How do virtual credit cards work?

A virtual card — in its simplest definition — is a plastic-free, totally electronic payment option. 

In the United Kingdom, virtual cards are often debit or prepaid cards, but in the United States, virtual credit cards predominate. You can make secure online purchases with the use of an app on your mobile device and a series of random security codes sent to you through the app (or occasionally via text message).

Users are advised to revoke their physical cards and get replacements at the first sign of any suspicious behavior. 

It might take up to five business days for a new plastic card to arrive. In addition, the buyer's financial information is kept private while using a virtual card to make an online purchase. This means that in the case of a data breach or internal leak at the store, your credit card information will be non-compromised.

Since you will be using a new number for each transaction, you will not have to worry about losing track of your card details. Create a dedicated credit card for use just at your preferred online retailer, such as Amazon.

Churn and burn…

Top Gun: Marverick, 2023

Use, throw away. However, if a physical store does not accept contactless payments, then the virtual card cannot be used. Many small companies accept contactless payments thanks to mobile card terminals. This is also true of the vast majority of stores on main street.

Leading virtual credit cards: The Verdict

Although virtual gift cards are still in their infancy, they may be useful for frequent online consumers. 

Before signing up for an account with any online bank, it is important to do some research and find out whether there are any hidden fees.

Also Read: 12 Best Online Banks UK

Keep in mind that no virtual cc is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme — therefore, you are taking a risk with your money.

In contrast, virtual credit and virtual debit cards are great for making day-to-day, smaller purchases and ideal if you want to manage all of your financial activities through your phone.

Most online banks have budgeting features to help you set spending limits, monitor recurring payments, and prepare for future expenses and revenue. Since you may only spend the money that is placed into a prepaid card, they can help those who have problems keeping to a budget.

It might be beneficial to hop on the virtual debit card bandwagon before the competition does.

FAQs

Advantages of using a virtual card, and why you should.

Why should I avoid them?

What is PayPal Credit?

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Mentioned Banks

About Barclays Bank Barclays is a British multinational investment bank and financial services company. It was founded in 1690 and is headquartered in London. Barclays originated...
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About Havin Bank Havin Bank, formerly known as Havana International Bank, or HIB, was founded in the United Kingdom in 1972. It received its banking authorisation the following...
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About HSBC Bank HSBC is a British banking and financial services company. It is the largest bank in Europe and the seventh largest bank in the world. The bank originated in Hong Kong...
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About M&S Bank Marks & Spencer Financial Services PLC trades under the name M&S Bank. It is a UK-based retail bank, formed as the financial services arm of Marks &...
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NatWest, or National Westminster, is a retail and commercial bank based in the United Kingdom. It is one of the ‘Big Four’ UK clearing banks and has more than 7.5million personal banking...
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