Google today announced that its Chrome browser will now offer users the ability to use a virtual credit card number in online payment forms on the web. These virtual card numbers allow you to keep your "real" credit card number safe when you buy something online since they can be easily revoked if a merchant's systems get hacked. A number of credit card issuers already offer these virtual credit card numbers, but they are probably far less mainstream than they should be.
Image Credits: Google
Google says these virtual cards will roll out in the U.S. later this summer. Since Google is working with both card issuers like Capital One, which is the launch partner for this feature, but also the major networks like Visa, Mastercard and American Express will be supported at launch. Having support from the networks is definitely a big deal here, because trying to get every individual card issuer on board would be a difficult task.
Update: Google initially told us that Mastercard support was coming "later this year." We've now heard from Mastercard that it'll launch this summer, together with the other networks.
The new feature will be available on Chrome on desktop and Android first, with iOS support rolling out later.
“This is a landmark step in bringing the security of virtual cards to as many consumers as possible," said Arnold Goldberg, the vice president and general manager of Payments at Google. "Shoppers using Chrome on desktop and Android can enjoy a fast checkout experience when shopping online while having the peace of mind knowing that their payment information is protected.”
From the user perspective, this new autofill option will simply enter the virtual card's details for you, including the CVV that you can never remember for your physical cards, and then you can manage the virtual cards and see your transactions at pay.google.com. While these virtual cards are typically used for one-time purchases, you will also be able to use these cards for subscriptions, too.
Since this is Google, some users will obviously worry that the company will use this additional data about your purchase habits, but Google says it will not use any of this information for ad targeting purposes.