On the occasion of its I/O 2022 conference, Google has just introduced “Virtual Cards”, a service that generates a temporary card number that you can use to pay online without sharing your real details. Only Google knows the true numbers.
Let’s face it, we all get a little scared when a website asks for our bank details. While services offer protection (PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.), there are still many ecommerce platforms that require your payment card numbers to place an order. With the prevalence of scams and everything we can hear everywhere, it’s not uncommon to feel scared. Will we be hacked if we enter our contact details? Is the site legit? How do I object in the event of a problem? The questions are varied.
Some banks counteract this problem with a so-called “e-credit card” system. Generally charged at just over 10 euros per year (or included in bank fees), it allows you to go to a website to generate a unique bank card valid only for a certain amount. In case of hacking, the cybercriminal cannot do anything, the card will not work. Coincidentally, this service inspired Google to at its I/O developer conferenceNotice virtual cardsits own competitor to the e-credit card.
Virtual cards can change everything
From our point of view, Virtual Cards is not just a competitor to virtual bank cards. Why ? Quite simply because it is integrated into Google Chrome, the most used browser in the world, making it almost transparent to users.
Let’s take the example of the Caisse d’Epargne service, which forces its customers to identify themselves on a special website and fill out a form to create a fake temporary card. This is not practical at all, especially since you then have to copy and paste the coordinates manually. Google will make generating a fake map easy, automatic and free. There is nothing to do but click a button.
Specifically, when a website asks you for your bank details, the option “Use a virtual card” will appear on the screen. Google, which must pre-register your real bank card, displays an animation showing the transformation of the numbers. Incorrect coordinates are sent to the merchant site, but Google charges you the correct amount. In the end, Google will be your only bank contact. You can no longer follow the others.
Unfortunately, Virtual Cards has one major flaw: it’s only launching in the US at first (as many banking services can attest to the Apple Card). Since all cards from American Visa, American Express and Capital One are compatible (Mastercards are coming at the end of 2022), one can imagine that Google can easily adapt its service to Europe. In the meantime, banks have a few months to improve their system, why not with browser extensions?
A hidden way to tax Google Pay?
What surprises us about Virtual Cards is that the service directly overshadows Google Pay, Google’s mobile payment solution available on all Android smartphones equipped with an NFC chip. Since the service works with all cards, why bother setting up Google Pay when virtual cards work everywhere?
We polled Google on the matter, which tells us they want to leave the choice up to the user. Once his card is registered for the first time (even if it’s not compatible with Google Pay), it works with virtual cards on all websites. What will Google Pay be used for when Virtual Cards are rolled out everywhere? Probably contactless outside, but that’s about it. Google risks parasitizing its payment solution, but let’s face it, it’s never had the same success as Apple Pay or PayPal.