By Patrick | March 30, 2007
PLEASE READ – UPDATE – July 6th, 2008: This post has been merged into a page. Please go here for the full information: http://www.theprivacyguy.com/anonymous-credit-debit-cards
For quite a while, I’ve been looking for an anonymous credit card. A truly anonymous credit card as in no personal information is associated with the card or stored on the card itself. If you Google “anonymous credit cards” you will get a number of links supposedly offering you anonymous credit cards, but proceed with caution.
I had in the past managed to find a number of anonymous “virtual” credit cards from my Google results, where I could get a number, expiration date and even CVV2. The problem was these cards were just virtual cards, but not physical cards that I could swipe. While this virtual credit card was great for online purchases and even mail order shopping, it didn’t offer a solution for my day to day needs like purchasing gas, groceries, etc. where a physical card is necessary.
Luckily, one of the links you will eventually always come across when searching for privacy friendly credit cards–which are technically prepaid debit cards– is a link directing you to Ryan Barrett’s site snarfed.org and his discussion on anonymous prepaid debit cards, which includes some physical cards. While this article was originally written in late 2005, it has remained fairly up to date through various blog comments and discussion.
It is through this article that I found out about Vanilla Visa prepaid debit cards. You can get these prepaid debit card/gift cards from CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens and a couple other places. Today, I purchased one. The purchase started off shaky as I couldn’t find them in the CVS I was in so I was getting worried. Finally I asked the girl behind the counter if they carried gift cards and she pointed me to a whole display of gift cards and prepaid Visa and Mastercard’s. Let me caution you, do not be duped into buying any of the other prepaid Visa or Mastercard card’s unless you know for sure that they will not require a SSN or other personally identifiable information upon activation. Be very sure to stay away from the GreenDot cards as their last remaining anonymous card, WebSecret, was discontinued late last year. While the WebSecret website is still online, you can no longer buy them anywhere. All Green Dot cards now require a SSN to activate.
So after the girl pointed me in the right direction, I began looking through the dozens of gift cards on the rack. At the very bottom I found two rows of vanilla visa cards, the $50 and the $100. I grabbed the $50 card and headed up to the counter where I was able to make my purchase with cash and completely anonymously. There are some “service fees” associated with these cards when you purchase it, but they are minor in comparison to the benefits offered. The fees are $3.95 for a $25 card, $4.95 for a $50 card, and $5.95 for a $100 card. Personally, I feel it’s well worth the fee for a truly anonymous product.
Just because this card is anonymous and doesn’t have your personal info stored on it, does not mean you can’t use it online. When shopping online, you can use any address you would like for the shipping address since there is no personal information associated with this card. One of the few negatives with this card is that if you attempt to purchase anything that is more than the remaining balance on your card, it will be declined. All this means is that you will need to pay for the difference in price (assumedly with cash since you’re being anonymous) before paying the remaining amount with your card. For all the gotcha’s, I would suggest you check out their FAQ page.
I will update as I start to use my anonymous card. I can’t see any huge problems or negatives however, so I highly recommend the vanilla visa gift card for all my other privacy aware friends.
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