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Virtual cards vs. ghost cards
Virtual Cards

Virtual cards vs. ghost cards: Learn the differences

May 9, 2024

Ghost cards and virtual cards allow you to make payments without depending on a physical card. Let’s explore ghost cards and virtual cards to help you decide which payment method can benefit your business the most. 

Are virtual cards the same as ghost cards? 

No. While they operate very similarly (during the point of purchase and from a supplier standpoint), they have different characteristics that influence the benefits your business receives.  

What are virtual cards?

Virtual cards are digital-only versions of credit cards. They are a touchless form of payment that is typically issued for single use, so you receive a unique card number, expiration date, and CVV with each virtual card. 

Virtual cards rely on a fully integrated experience with your ERP (enterprise resource planning) software. By setting this up, you are automating the card creation and processing experience for your accounts payable team, which saves them time. 

virtual card infographic

What are ghost cards?

Ghost cards (also referred to as lodge cards) are also a digital-only type of card that’s easy to get up and running quickly. Like a virtual card, a ghost card exists as digital-only, so you don’t need to wait for physical credit cards to be processed and sent by your card provider before you can start making payments. 

With a ghost card, you typically receive card numbers, security codes, and expiration dates that don’t change, so these types of cards can be used repeatedly to make payments (unlike virtual cards). 

What are the similarities between virtual cards vs. ghost cards?

  • Both are exclusively for digital purchasing experiences.
  • Supplier acceptance of ghost cards and virtual cards is generally the same. 
  • Both ghost cards and virtual cards typically qualify for rebates

What are the differences between virtual cards vs. ghost cards?

  • Virtual card programs typically take longer to roll out than ghost cards.  
  • Virtual card programs are more automated than ghost cards, which in the long run will save your accounts payable team time, lead to faster payments, etc., when launched.
  • Virtual cards use unique, one-time-use tokens, so they should provide better protection against fraud
  • Ghost cards have established credit limits for goods, services, or invoice payments and are provided to vendors with a credit limit established.

Which card is right for your business?

Choosing between ghost cards and virtual cards ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences. Virtual cards come with perks that ghost cards don’t have. But ghost cards can provide an opportunity for you to quickly transition to digital payments until your virtual card program is ready.

Choose a virtual card provider that has the pricing, service, and relationships to help you build out the payment experience that’s right for you.  

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The information in this blog post is for educational purposes only. It is not legal or tax advice. For legal or tax advice, you should consult your own legal counsel, tax and investment advisers.

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