Could digital cards replace physical ones?

For some time now, experts have been saying that consumers may one day ditch the credit cards in their wallet and load all their payment information onto a smartphone. But now a new method for those mobile payments has been introduced.

The card issuer CSI GlobalVCard recently unveiled what it calls a virtual credit card at the latest Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and it may provide consumers with significant protections that other mobile payment options do not, according to a report from InformationWeek. Where previous mobile payment technologies may have allowed consumers to load their account information onto smartphones that come embedded with near-field communications technology, this new payment type uses simple images that could theoretically be displayed on any smartphone screen.

In fact, all the payment method does is display an image of a credit card with a legitimate number on it as a PNG image file, which is then shown to the cashier, who types the number in to complete the transaction, the report said. But where this differs from other mobile payment technologies is that consumers can set up numerous protections for themselves with the program. For example, they can go through their account online and set it up to create a one-time use card number with a specific credit limit or even an expiration date, and the virtual card can then be sent to an email account as a standard attachment.

This type of card may be ideal for families who want to give their kids an allowance but keep their spending under control, or can help to prevent online fraud by having the user set up a single-use card number for the exact amount of the purchase they want to make, the report said. However, because this change is so radical and there have already been perception issues with the concept of safety as it relates to mobile payment adoption, experts believe this type of transaction may be slower to enter the mainstream. With this in mind, future versions of the payment method will also incorporate NFC technology as well, CSI GlobalVCard director of marketing Erica Santiago told the site.

Many credit card companies are looking for ways to make it safer for consumers to take on credit card debt utilizing the latest technology, and mobile payments in particular are expected to be adopted on a widespread basis within the next few years.