How to Generate a Card Number Through PayPal

By Michelle Carvo

Updated October 09, 2017

i credit card image by Jaimie Duplass from

PayPal once offered a free feature that enabled users to generate a virtual card number to purchase items online using their PayPal account. Although this service has since been discontinued by PayPal, there are a number of alternatives that may work just as well for you.

PayPal Prepaid

PayPal’s support team recommends that users who want to generate a card number through PayPal instead use PayPal’s prepaid card. The PayPal prepaid card is free and can be linked to your PayPal account so that funds can be transferred from your account to the card. You can then use this card to make purchases online in the same way you would use a generated card number. The card also allows you to add funds at participating retailers. Unlike a virtual card number, the PayPal prepaid card is not temporary, but it may meet your basic need for purchasing items with a card that is funded by your PayPal account balance.

PayPal Debit

An alternative to the PayPal Prepaid card is the PayPal debit card. Unlike the PayPal prepaid card, the PayPal debit card cannot be reloaded as it is tied to your PayPal account. Instead, the debit card effectively makes your PayPal account like a standard bank checking account as you can use the card to spend your PayPal balance. The debit card is subject to approval by PayPal, so if you have a bad credit score or banking history it may be harder to get approved. The debit card comes with the added bonus of offering 1% cash back on signed purchases.

Bank or Credit Card Company

PayPal may no longer offer virtual card numbers, but chances are your bank or credit card company does. Companies like Citibank and Bank of America offer customers the ability to generate a short-term virtual card number that can be used to make purchases online. Companies like Discover and American Express used to offer this service but no longer do.

You can check with your bank or credit card company to see if they offer the service. If they do not offer the service then you may consider a third-party provider like MaskMe or a Netspend Prepaid card, both of which allow you to generate virtual credit card numbers even if your bank doesn’t offer the service.

Other Prepaid Cards

You can use other prepaid cards as an alternative to generating a virtual card number. Cards like the American Express Serve can be reloaded with funds from another debit card, such as a PayPal debit card, or at local participating retailers. You can then use the card to make purchases online without giving out your other debit or credit card numbers. Other prepaid card options include the American Express Bluebird, Chase Liquid, and Green Dot Prepaid Visa Card.