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An introduction to single-use virtual cards

A caterer processing a single-use virtual card on a POS terminal.
Aharon Levine VP of Payments Strategy
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A single-use virtual card (SUVC) is a payment method that works just like a credit card. The main differences are that no physical card is involved and your customers’ card details are never exposed.

In this guide, we’ll cover all the benefits of single-use virtual cards, how to start using them, and how they can help your small business.

What’s a single-use virtual card?

Put simply, an SUVC is a virtual credit card you receive in an email. It includes all the details you expect to find on a regular card so you can process it like you would any other card-not-present transaction on your POS terminal

The difference is, it does not reveal any sensitive information. Instead, it contains a 16-digit card number that is randomly generated when the payment is sent. 

An SUVC can only be charged the exact amount it was set to, so, you don’t have to worry about mischarges. It can also only be used once and does not contain your customer’s actual card number or other sensitive information, so keeping it safe after the payment is done or being compliant with privacy regulations isn’t a concern.

SUVC essentials:

  • Received via email
  • Processed like any other card
  • Card number is random
  • Can only be used once
  • Only exact amount accepted

What does a single-use virtual card look like?

An SUVC can look as simple as a few lines of text containing the necessary details or like a digital rendition of a regular card.

A single-use virtual card contains the following information:

  • Randomly generated 16-digit card number
  • Expiry date in the MM/YY format
  • Three-four digit CVC, CVV2, or CVV code* 
  • Exact sum that can be charged to card
  • Issuing bank
  • Card issuer address

*CVC (card verification code) or CVV/CVV2 (card verification value) are three or four-digit security numbers printed on a credit or debit card.

Here’s what Melio’s single-use virtual card looks like:

A melio single use virtual card, highlighting the components it has, like sum, number, and CVV.

For security reasons, the email you get from Melio does not contain the details of the SUVC. To view them, you’ll need to click get card details. This will redirect you to a secure website where you can view the details as pictured above.

Who can process SUVCs?

Any business that accepts credit or debit card payments can also accept single-use virtual cards. To get paid with an SUVC via Melio, for example, you need to accept Mastercard. 

So, if you’re already set up for card payments, you can easily receive SUVC and keep your existing workflow for incoming payments.     

Important note: In order to receive payments via SUVC you must have a POS terminal that can process credit card transactions. This can either be a physical terminal, like the ones you encounter at a brick-and-mortar store, or a virtual terminal, which is typically used by online stores to process card payments. 

An SUVC is processed in your terminal like any other card-not-present transaction, by inputting the relevant information.

What’s a POS terminal?

A point-of-sale (POS) terminal is a system used for processing credit and debit card transactions. It can be a physical piece of hardware that reads the magnetic strips or contactless component on the card, or a virtual software platform that is typically used by online sellers. 

Both physical and virtual POS terminals can support card-not-present transactions, where you manually input the card details to process the payment. This is exactly how a single-use virtual card is processed.

How SUVCs fit into the SMB workflow

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) dance to their own rhythms and they need their payment workflows to fit them like a glove. If you already accept credit cards and have a POS terminal, accepting SUVC payments allows you to maintain your existing workflow.

Benefits of SUVCs for SMBs:


The benefits of single use virtual cards for small businesses. Maintain workflow, Own your schedule, Instant confirmation, Better security, and Easy reconciliation.

SUVCs let you set your own schedule

A small business owner’s schedule is not necessarily aligned with the bank’s opening hours. Whether you wake up with the birds or burn that midnight oil, getting paid with single-use virtual cards means you can process them right from your POS at any time that works for you.

Confirmation is instant with SUVCs

By the time you receive the single-use virtual card, the payment has already been collected from your customer. So there’s no risk of it being rejected at a later stage, unlike a check that can bounce, or a bank transfer that can be denied due to insufficient funds. 

As soon as you process a single-use virtual card through your POS terminal you instantly know that the money is on its way.

SUVCs improve security

You can receive single-use virtual cards without exposing your bank account details to your customers or any new third party. The card arrives in your inbox and you process it securely through your existing POS terminal. 

Your customers’ payment details are encrypted and kept safe through Melio’s state-of-the-art security protocols. 

And, ​​Melio’s SUVCs are Mastercards issued by JPMorgan Chase, so your money is always in good hands.

They also help with reconciliation

When you get a payment through bank transfer or check, you don’t always know what it’s for, or who it came from. Thus begins the rigorous process of reconciliationReconciliationAccount reconciliation means comparing the numbers in an account with other financial records to verify the balances match. Differences that are detected when reconciling the accounts are called discrepancies.

When collecting payments via single-use virtual cards, you’re never left guessing. The email you receive contains all the relevant information for easier tracking and reconciliation of every incoming payment.

How do you process a single-use virtual card?

An SUVC is processed like any other card-not-present transaction.

Follow these steps to process your single-use virtual card payment:

  1. When you receive the email notifying you of the payment, click get card details. This will redirect you to Melio’s website where you will be able to view the full card details. 
  2. Type the required details into your POS terminal and confirm the payment. Be sure to input the exact amount stated on the card, otherwise, your payment will not be processed.
  3. Receive instant confirmation through your terminal.
  4. Get the money to your bank account according to your POS terms.

Are there additional costs to SUVCs?

When receiving your payments via single-use virtual cards, you are only charged the regular processing fees you pay for any other card transaction that goes through your POS terminal. 

There are no added charges for you or your customers.

How to start receiving SUVC payments?

To start accepting single-use virtual cards, contact our sales team and we’ll get you settled. 

If you opt-in to accept single-use virtual cards, they will become your exclusive method for receiving payments via Melio. This means that every time a Melio user pays you, you’ll get paid a single-use virtual card. 

Remember: You can only accept SUVCs if you already have a POS terminal for processing credit and debit card transactions.

A better way to get paid

Getting paid faster and more securely is a top priority for any business. With a single-use virtual card you can process incoming payments around the clock, whenever is convenient for you, and receive instant confirmation. 

SUVC payments are also more secure and easier to reconcile than traditional methods like checks or credit card payments over the phone. And, they’re processed just like any other card not present transaction on your POS terminal, so you don’t have to change anything in your workflow.

Start getting faster payments with single-use virtual card.Join now

*This guide is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.
**Melio does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and you should consult with a professional advisor before making any financial decisions.