Posted by William Charles on April 28, 2015

Published on April 28th, 2015 | by William Charles


Create A Virtual Account Number (VAN) With Citi – Limit It To One Use, Spending Limit And More

One of the less known features about Citi and Citi credit cards is that it’s possible to create something known as a virtual account number or VAN for short. A virtual account number is a temporary virtual credit card number that is linked to your actual credit card number.

Typically these VAN’s are useful in a few different situations:

  • You want to make a purchase from a merchant and you’re unsure about their payment security
  • You want to enroll in a free trial/paid trial but are worried it will be difficult/impossible to cancel

In both of these situations you could use a VAN to make your purchase, after the purchase is made you can cancel that VAN. That way if the merchant does have their data compromised, the attackers will end up with a credit card number that no longer works. Similarly if you sign up for a free trial and you can’t cancel, instead you just cancel the VAN and they are unable to continually charge you.

It’s also possible to limit how much can be spent on the virtual card and how long the card is active for. This could be useful if you wanted to give a dependent a virtual card with a preset spending limit.  Below is a video that explains how Citi’s virtual credit card numbers work.

Have you used Citi’s VAN feature before? What are your thoughts on it? How could it be improved? Let me know in the comments. If there is interest I’ll do similar posts on other little known card benefits.

Make sure you don’t use a VAN when you need to provide proof of credit card when picking up tickets and the like.

Obviously you’ll be unable to provide this proof. Reader Bobbie has ran into troubles using a VAN for bus tickets and concert tickets in the past for example.

21 Responses to Create A Virtual Account Number (VAN) With Citi – Limit It To One Use, Spending Limit And More

  1. jun says:

    Very nice post, good to know about this feature. Good job, Will

  2. Jan B says:

    Could it be designated to limit one charge as a purchase, say, to fund an initial bank deposit?

  3. Paul says:

    Will, very cool post. I was just thinking about this feature the other day, but I got busy and did not further pursue how to use it. The site could definitely make it more easily found, but it is there. I was thinking about using this feature (as I remember seeing it when I signed up for the Thank You Premier card), and I am surprised more CC do not offer the feature. With the way companies operate these days, this function could be very useful.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Octavio says:

    I’ve been using this feature for a while, and I must say that it has gotten me out of trouble quite a few times by preventing unauthorized charges from merchants who failed to cancel my “free trials” in a timely manner or that decided to subscribe me to additional products. BTW, Bank of America offers a similar service called ShopSafe to its Visa/Mastercard CC holders. I alternate between the 2 depending on which site is not down for maintenance at the time I need it.

    From BOfA’s site:

    ShopSafe protection is available only on Bank of America Visa® and MasterCard® accounts for customers who use our Online Banking service and is not currently available on Bank of America American Express accounts.

  5. David says:

    back in the day we used it for MS with multiple accounts. Theoretically you have 10 Visa cards but all are racking up spend on the 1 you need! 🙂
    Think Venmo, AP, Serve, Visabuxx…

  6. FreakingFlyer says:

    Pretty sure this doesn’t apply to Citi Hilton cards.

  7. mike says:

    Good for paying those gym memberships with sneaky fees.

  8. Bobbie says:

    One caveat – don’t use when you have to provide proof of credit card when picking up tickets etc. I used a VAN a few months ago to purchase bus tickets for Prague to Nuremberg. When transaction was completed site said I needed to show credit card along with tickets to get on bus. When I tried to explain to ticket taker on bus that it was a virtual number she didn’t understand and almost wouldn’t let us on. She finally gave up when a long line formed behind. Also had problem in Las Vegas picking up prepaid tickets to a show.

  9. Real says:

    Great tip thanks for the post

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  13. JIm says:

    Does anyone know if the Citi Diamond Preferred Card and the ThankYou Preferred have the VAN option?

  14. Gary says:

    Just a comment. I have been using vitual accounts for years and it has been fantastic. I use them on anything that I believe may have a sneaky renewal or could overcharge me somehow. Last week, Citi changed my card from an Aadvantage Visa to an Aavantage Mastercard. My virtual account now doesn’t work. I tried everything but it comes down to the new account does not have that “feature”. So,not all accounts work.

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  16. Julien says:

    This feature only works with certain Citi cards, not all of them. Check the benefit description for your card.

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