Google is adding a feature to Chrome’s autofill system called Virtual Card Numbers, which allows you to hide your credit or debit card number while making purchases on the web. Google says the feature makes it easy to buy things securely from sites that don’t support options like Google or Apple Pay.
It’s basically the same experience as using Chrome Autofill to enter your credit card information, but with an extra layer of security. If you give your card number to a merchant and they misuse it, you’ll have to contact your bank to reverse the charges and cancel your card, which is annoying at best. That won’t happen if you use Google’s virtual cards, Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce and payments, told me. The edge in an interview. Each virtual card can only be used for a specific transaction (although they do support recurring transactions if you want to use it for a subscription).
Ready says virtual card numbers also have a convenience corner: Implementing support for Google Pay or other third-party options can take a lot of work from a vendor, while Google’s virtual card numbers will work on any site that can accept credit cards. He also says that Google “doesn’t charge anything” when you use a virtual card, so merchants don’t have to hand over a portion of their profits and customers don’t have to hand over their credit card information.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Google is competing with companies like Privacy.com, which allow you to create and use virtual maps on the web. Ready told me there won’t be an interface to manage your virtual cards in the new Google Wallet app or anything (although the system can protect the cards you store there). Instead, he said, they are meant to be used per transaction. While that makes the system less flexible, it also means you don’t have to think about it – you can just click the prompt to use a virtual card number and be on your way.
Ready said you can use Chrome’s virtual card numbers to mask Capital One cards for starters. Google will also add support for Visa, American Express and Mastercards.