UK-based Starling Bank is introducing new virtual debit cards this week that will help customers manage spending, saving, and even security free of charge. These new virtual cards will be linked to a main Starling bank account and use a separate savings space balance, but they’ll have a unique card number, CVV, and expiry date. That makes them perfect for bundling together payments and tracking how much you’re spending, or using separate cards for security purposes.
Not a day seems to go by without a security breach somewhere, and the worst ones can expose your card numbers and details. While Starling Bank has introduced its virtual cards primarily for tracking spending, you could also use them to assign a virtual card to different utility providers or even have a virtual card that you use online at websites you don’t typically shop at. You can also quickly lock or delete your virtual card, making it easy to block future payments.
These virtual cards are also great for budgeting or assigning payments like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus to a single card so you can see how much you’re paying for streaming services each month. That’s particularly useful during a cost of living crisis in the UK, where inflation is hitting every day goods and energy prices keep skyrocketing.
Starling’s virtual cards work online or over the phone, and you can even use them in stores if you add the virtual cards to your Android or iOS mobile wallet. They’re just like regular debit cards but you don’t get a physical version.
You can have up to five virtual cards active at once, but you can create up to five new cards every week. So if you have annual payments you could create a card for these, delete it, and then use that slot for regular payments. The cards can be created inside the Spaces section of the Starling Bank app, and each card has a daily spending limit of £500 or up to 50 transactions a day.
Starling Bank and competitors like Monzo have been challenging traditional UK banks for years now. Both are mobile banks and have no brick-and-mortar locations or clerks at desks. Instead, everything is done through your phone. They’ve been hugely influential in the UK, pushing regular banks to implement more mobile-friendly banking, all while demand for in-person banks has plummeted.
Monzo and Revolut have offered similar virtual cards previously, but Monzo’s is far more limited. You have to pay £5 per month for Monzo’s Plus account to get access to virtual cards. Revolut, like Starling, offers free virtual cards to customers, and offers 20 free in total.
These new virtual cards from Starling Bank and others are exactly what every bank needs. They sound like a great way to manage your spending and security, and I personally love the idea of being able to use a virtual card temporarily for certain transactions and not have to worry about my card data falling into nefarious hands.
Update, December 8th 4:20PM ET: Article updated to clarify the feature works with the balance of a Savings Space.
Correction, December 12th 5:35AM ET: Article updated to note Revolut now offers 20 free virtual cards to customers, not just a single one anymore. We regret the error.