Written By: Chris Shipley, Chief Technical Officer
I’m writing today to let you know about an app I use called Privacy (this is an affiliate link – sign up and you’ll get $5 credit to use!). This app is about consumer privacy and advocacy as it relates to shopping and signing up for services online. This app lets you link a bank account to their system and start creating virtual credit cards that access the funds available. This company and their product are dedicated to helping you as the consumer – whereas all the traditionally developed cards and apps are dedicated to helping financial institutions.
Why use virtual credit cards? They are valid for many services to sign up for – Google wallet, Amazon shopping, your favorite streaming service, etc. It’s not a card you can use to swipe. Privacy lets you restrict the use of these cards to a specific vendor, a set value, one-time use only, or a number of combinations of those options. You can pause (or resume) a card so it no longer accepts payment requests.You can even cancel the cards without fear that this activity hits against your FICO credit score (at least in the USA). Open and close as many as the app allows you to. I am free level, so I can create 12 cards a month, but I have dozens of virtual cards and over 100 canceled ones.
Let me share with you a real world example of how this has helped me. I signed up for a free trial of a service – for some reason they wanted my credit card information. Well, I created a virtual card with them, tried the service, and then decided that for how often I use them, I didn’t want to pay their $20/mo minimum fee. Their service offering would have been great if I had needed it multiple times a month, but I’m a handful of times a year consumer for this service. So I attempted to cancel the service. I couldn’t, but I did cancel the card.
Ensue the 9-month process to actually cancel service where they kept increasing my invoice by $20/mo, every month, plus late fees. These were only racking up in their computer and my email, certainly not out of my bank account! I’m a savvy guy. I’ve been on the Internet when Netscape Navigator was the preferred web browser for Windows 3.11. I know how to operate a website and sign up for, and assuredly cancel, a service. I’ve been shopping online since before Amazon was more than just a used book service. However, before virtual credit cards, I was always at their mercy for predatory or negligent practices.
I’ve been using Privacy for a few years now and I’m very satisfied with their service. In the past, online shopping consumer protection meant getting a separate account for your debit card. This service turbocharges that. You should still probably get a separate account for the debit card just in case Privacy’s system or your mobile gets hacked. That is called limiting your attack surface or reducing your exposure.
Got a kid that wants to play a mobile game and you want to give them an allowance to spend in the app? Make a virtual credit card for it and limit its weekly charges.
This also protects your finances if the store you shopped at last year, one time, that you never paid attention to again gets hacked – or their payment processor (thanks financial institutions). If your credit card details get leaked here, well it’s that single use card you made for this purchase and you’ve already canceled it after the transaction went through – so you aren’t exposed at all! What if I have to return the product? It doesn’t matter if I canceled the card and the vendor sends the money back to the canceled card – Privacy puts that money right back into my account anyway because they know it was mine to begin with.