Roll Call...who uses ShopSafe or Citi's "Virtual Account Numbers"?


  • Global Moderator

    @dangeRuss and I had a discussion this morning which led to the realization that he’s the only other ShopSafe user I’ve ever met, and I’ve been using it since Dubya was President.

    We can’t be the only two! It’s time for users of virtual credit card numbers to sound off. Let’s hear about your experiences!


  • Global Moderator

    What is Shop Safe? Is it related to Citi?


  • Global Moderator

    @jtownsucks46 said in Roll Call...who uses ShopSafe or Citi's "Virtual Account Numbers"?:

    What is Shop Safe? Is it related to Citi?

    • Bank of America = ShopSafe
    • Citibank = VAN/Virtual Account Numbers
    • Capital One = Eno (why call your service backwards is beyond me)

    In the past, other banks have offered temporary virtual CC#s that can be used to make more secure online/phone purchases, but these are the only ones I currently know about.



  • In the earlier days of online shopping, I would use VAN - especially when shopping at a site for the first time. Now, I don’t shop online as much - and when I do, it is mostly at established national chains.

    I also don’t use Citi cards that often, since I have other cards that offer higher cash back for different categories. Plus, there are now more options for anonymizing your cc info (e.g. Google Pay, Chase Pay, PayPal, Masterpass, Visa Checkout).


  • Global Moderator

    I use Citi Virtual numbers in cases where I’m not sure of the site’s reputation or if there is an auto renew trap that I’m trying to avoid.



  • I’ve used BofA Shop Safe several times especially on recurring payments type sites/purchases. Glad I did when I tried a low cost Cell Service that is known for continuing to charge even after cancellation along with non existent customer service. Yep, they tried to charge me for at least two months of service but I had created a $5 credit limit card number. Sorry mor info than requested. So, Yes I use/have used these services.


  • Global Moderator

    I’ve been an online shopper for decades, and in my case, as time that goes by, the more the balance shifts from B&M stores to online. I’m at the point now where I get almost everything online.

    In an environment like that, I don’t know how anyone lives without virtual credit numbers. Sure, PayPal works for eBay and a limited number of other transactions, but that’s a relatively small percentage of online merchants and I find it to be a clunky interface anyway.

    Before MBNA and ShopSafe, I used to average about one fraudulent transaction a month. I’d call my CC company and say, “What is this charge?”, and most of the time, they’d explain that it was for access to a porn site. I’d say, “But I didn’t access any porn site!” and they’d respond, “Sure you didn’t.” They’d take it off, but it was really annoying.

    ShopSafe essentially eliminated that problem. As a bonus, I am sure that it’s saved my bacon in countless other ways…I’ve given out $1 SS numbers for many “All we need is your credit card number! We promise not to charge anything to it!” offers, and never lost a wink of sleep.

    Plus it’s caught so many sleazy operators for me. Using the “create a number for recurring charges” feature, I’ve gotten email and phone calls essentially saying, "Hey! Your credit card was declined! (with the unspoken tagline “Deadbeat!”) It’s very satisfying to call or write back and say, “I’ve checked with my bank and everything is in order. Are you sure you didn’t try to put through a charge for a higher amount than usual?” and listen to the representative fumbling to admit that, yes, there was an unannounced increase or other upcharge.

    Unfortunately, when BofA bought out MBNA, they clearly weren’t 100% behind the ShopSafe program. The first thing to go was mobile access, which, needless to say, was huge. Lack of a mobile app is probably the biggest flaw in the current BofA SS program.

    Then they eliminated direct web access, so that the only way to get a virtual number is to sign on to Mobile Banking, click through a series of menus, and then open a kludgey stink bomb of a Flash app.

    The other problem that’s been cropping up more and more often is SS numbers just not working, or more correctly, vendors just not accepting them. This has always been a problem, but it’s gotten worse over the past couple of years. There’s obviously some optional verification that merchants can use which virtual credit card numbers fail. I’ve never been able to figure out what it is. Perhaps merchants have gotten wise to them, the way they have to email services like Spamgourmet. Automatic rejection of spamgourmet addresses, regardless of which of their available domains you use, seems to now be “baked in” to many apps and programs.

    For those of you using Capital One or Citi virtual numbers, how do they compare?


  • Global Moderator

    @ctcarl said in Roll Call...who uses ShopSafe or Citi's "Virtual Account Numbers"?:

    Unfortunately, when BofA bought out MBNA, they clearly weren’t 100% behind the ShopSafe program. The first thing to go was mobile access, which, needless to say, was huge. Lack of a mobile app is probably the biggest flaw in the current BofA SS program.

    Then they eliminated direct web access, so that the only way to get a virtual number is to sign on to Mobile Banking, click through a series of menus, and then open a kludgey stink bomb of a Flash app.

    The other problem that’s been cropping up more and more often is SS numbers just not working, or more correctly, vendors just not accepting them. This has always been a problem, but it’s gotten worse over the past couple of years. There’s obviously some optional verification that merchants can use which virtual credit card numbers fail. I’ve never been able to figure out what it is. Perhaps merchants have gotten wise to them, the way they have to email services like Spamgourmet. Automatic rejection of spamgourmet addresses, regardless of which of their available domains you use, seems to now be “baked in” to many apps and programs.

    For those of you using Capital One or Citi virtual numbers, how do they compare?

    Citi is the only virtual CC# service I’ve ever used. I’ve been using it for 18 years, maybe longer.

    The things I like about VAN:

    • It uses the same log in info as your online CC account access
    • With the website tool, once you log into your online account, the VAN is always prominently displayed on the home page.
    • You can set how long it will be a valid number/when it expires in 1 month increments up to 12 months (I like to keep a 12 month VAN on file for sites like Google Play that require a CC# for free offers), or just generate a VAN with no limits
    • You specify the maximum amount that can be charged to the number, so I always round up to the nearest dollar of the OOP cost (multiple charges to the CC# will be authorized unless and until they exceed this cap)
    • You can change the expiration and/or maximum allowed charge at any time before the CC# expires (very useful if you forgot to factor in something like tax or shipping, or you used a VAN with a $1 cap on a site that requires a CC# for a one off free offer then decide to keep using the same number for other free offers but don’t want to risk a decline if the VAN will expire soon)
    • You can see which merchant charged to the VAN
    • You can view archived VANs
    • You can see how much was charged to each VAN and the remaining balance
    • You can drag and drop the CC#, expiration date and security code (or copy and paste)
    • Once logged in, the service works pretty flawlessly for both the PC app and the online site.
    • I’ve never once had an online vendor not accept a VAN… Jet .com always get declined at first because I don’t buy from them much and always forget that their pre-authorization charge is always, more than the final order total rounded up to the nearest dollar (once I increase the cap, the charge goes through).

    To me, its weaknesses are

    • Lack of universal access: they have never had a mobile or Apple PC app
    • Their Windows PC app is very buggy to initiate and log into (with recurring periods where it hasn’t worked at all)
    • Their online log on requires you to log into your CC account first before launching VAN (you can bypass that by bookmarking the pop up VAN window, but they tend change the URL periodically)
    • The PC app website automatically logs you out very quickly (I often take a screenshot in case I get booted out before I’m ready)
    • You can’t always use the easy drag and drop feature for the long CC#s instead of copy/paste or typing
    • It’s a pain that you can’t use it at B&M stores or for orders online that you pick up in stores (they require you to show your form of payment at pickup). I’ve never tried, but I suppose you could use a virtual number to pay online and then request to change the payment method at pickup (I wouldn’t risk it if the sale price has changed/any promos or discounts are affected if they have to cancel your order and ring it up again)


  • I haven’t used Citibank’s virtual account numbers in a while.
    Years ago I used one and set the limit for $10. I tried to buy an item online that was listed at the wrong price. I forgot what the item was, but it was priced at about $5 in check-out when it should have been $150. After I submitted the order the company emails me stating there was something wrong with my credit card. They were trying to put a charge in for the difference. I didn’t really need the item. I told them to forget the whole thing and refund me the $5, that they did.



  • @fivetalents said in Roll Call...who uses ShopSafe or Citi's "Virtual Account Numbers"?:

    The things I like about VAN:

    • You can set how long it will be a valid number/when it expires in 1 month increments up to 12 months (I like to keep a 12 month VAN on file for sites like Google Play that require a CC# for free offers), or just generate a VAN with no limits

    Not sure if BofA lets you create a ShopSafe VCC w/ no limit, but their minimum expiry is 2 months while Citi VAN technically lets you generate a VCC that’s valid for a little as 1 month. Both let you set the maximum expiry as 12 months, but in both cases you can extend the expiry up to another 12 months (something you must do so before the VAN/VCC expires).

    • You specify the maximum amount that can be charged to the number, dso I always round up to the nearest dollar of the OOP cost (multiple charges to the CC# will be authorized unless and until they exceed this cap)

    Citi VAN tends to strictly adhere to the CL you set for your VAN. BofA ShopSafe VCC’s permit a fudge factor (of an additional 5% - 10% of your specified CL), in case you forgot to account for additional charges like S&H. I much prefer the strict adherence of Citi VAN. If you fail to account for S&H, your transaction should be DECLINED, and the onus is then on you to increase the CL (which both programs let you do).

    • You can change the expiration and/or maximum allowed charge at any time before the CC# expires (very useful if you forgot to factor tax in something like tax or shipping, or you used a VAN with a $1 cap on a site that requires a CC# for one off free offer then decide to keep using the same number for other free offers but don’t want to risk a decline if the VAN will expire soon)

    As far as I know, when you INCREASE the CL of a VAN/VCC (under either program), if the VAN/VCC is expiring in less than 2 months, you must increase its expiry to be at least 2 months out.

    • You can see which merchant charged to the VAN

    One of the greatest aspects of VAN’s/VCC’s is not only showing you which merchant charged to your VAN/VCC, but only the FIRST MERCHANT to charge to the card is supposed to be allowed to subsequently charge to it. This is a GREAT security feature should a particular merchant’s back-end systems get hacked, having their customer CC data stolen. The VAN/VCC is only supposed to be valid at that merchant, so it should decline elsewhere. In reality, Citi VAN seems to strictly adhere to this. BofA seems to allow some flexibility. For example, if you place a BofA VCC in your PayPal profile and then make several eBay purchases from different sellers, the merchant name may show up as “ebay - Merchat A” for the first seller, “ebay - Merchant B” for the second seller. Citi VAN considers these two be two different merchant names, so your VAN will likely only work for purchases from the the first seller/merchant. BofA tends to be more flexible, allowing both “ebay*” purchases to go through.

    • You can drag and drop the CC#, expiration date and security code (or copy and paste)

    The drag & drop feature, to my knowledge, only works in the stand-alone Windows Citi VAN app. BofA used to offer a stand-alone ShopSafe Windows app (that also supported drag & drop) but stopped updating it 5+ years ago (the last released version from 2013 stopped working at least 2-3 years ago). Thus, only web-generated ShopSafe VCC’s are available through BofA. As far as I know, drag & drop is not available in the web interface for either Citi VAN or BofA ShopSafe VCC’s (although COPY/PASTE should be available in both).

    To me, its weaknesses are

    • It’s a pain that you can’t use it in store or for orders online that you pick up in stores (they require you to show your form of payment at pickup). I’ve never tried, but I suppose you could use a virtual number to pay online and then request to change the payment method at pickup (I wouldn’t risk it if the sale price has changed/any promos or discounts are affected if they have to cancel your order and ring it up again)

    I’ve ordered on-line for in-store pickup using a VAN/VCC. I simply took a screen shot of the VAN/VCC, printed it out onto my store-pickup slip (implying that I printed out the store pickup email) and showed that to the CSR/cashier. I may have run into some resistance at times, but after explaining that’s it’s a “secure” CC for on-line purchases, that’s been accepted by places. If I’ve ever been outright denied such a pickup, it was many many years ago (as I can’t recall in recent times when that may have happened).

    Have even used a printed out VAN/VCC to sign-up in-person at a gym for gym membership (using the excuse of “security,” in that the FIRST MERCHANT to charge to the VAN/VCC is the ONLY MERCHANT who can charge to it). 😉



  • @fivetalents said in Roll Call...who uses ShopSafe or Citi's "Virtual Account Numbers"?:

    The things I like about VAN:

    Another PRO:

    • You can close out a VAN/VCC at-will so that even if the merchant who’s permitted to charge to it hasn’t fully used up its allocated CL, the merchant won’t get any more successful CC auth’s to the VAN/VCC once closed.

  • Global Moderator



  • I do use the Citi VAN from time to time.
    I used to use the Discover VAN also until they discontinued it.
    I also like to use Paypal so that I don’t have to give out my CC as often.


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