The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.

Living in a virtual world, there’s always two of everything. There’s the real you and the virtual you, real games versus virtual games, real shopping versus virtual shopping, etc. But having two of everything can be beneficial, especially when it comes to your credit card security. If you purchase a lot of items online, having a virtual credit card number can keep your finances and your credit card information unknown to virtual hackers.

Most credit card issuers offer virtual credit card numbers upon request. Instead of using your actual physical credit card for online purchases, you can input a new 16-digit credit card number with security code and expiration date. It’s a credit card without the actual card. The new account information is linked to your old account, so billing will be handled in the same fashion. The money will continue to be taken out of the original account, even though you provide a different number.

Consumers can’t choose the numbers that they want for their 16-digit virtual credit card, but they can choose their expiration date. Bank of America allows the consumer to set a minimum expiration date two months from the date that they acquired the virtual credit card. Consumers can also set the maximum spending limit, as well as what website the virtual credit cards can be used on.

All that added protection at no extra cost to you. Consumers must first call up their credit card issuer to see about the application process. After approval, if a consumer wants to make a purchase all they have to do is log-on to their virtual account and create a new virtual credit card number for each time they do any online shopping.

Each credit card issuer is different, some companies allow you to reuse the same virtual card number with the same seller, but with other credit card issuers the number can only be used once. Consumers will find virtual credit cards helpful when making purchases on unsecure websites, to counteract reoccurring charges, and other security.

If a thief so happens to get their hands on your virtual credit card, they won’t be happy at all. A virtual credit card has so many loopholes and consumer specific preferences that it’s basically useless in the hands of hacker. The scammer would have to know the expiration date, the website that it can be used for and the spending limit. While virtual credit cards offer extra protection, they aren’t perfect. Some consumers have reported being able to use their virtual credit card after its expiration date or for amounts more than what the credit limit was set to.

Your credit history has no bearing as to whether or not you will be approved for a virtual credit card. But it’s important to still watch your credit card statements when using a virtual credit card. Although, it’s implausible, it’s not impossible for a thief to get their hands on your personal information and make unauthorized charges. Catch things like this early by being extra thorough when sifting through your credit card statements.