Business Cards

How to Use a Virtual Card to Buy Anything You Need (Even a Tesla!)

Virtual business debit cards can be used in-store and online to make purchases from just about any merchant. Here's how they work.

Does managing business spending make you want to scream? Yep, we've been there. 

The good news is there's a solution—and it might be easier to use than you think. 

Virtual business debit cards allow business owners and bookkeepers to take control of business spending by issuing virtual debit cards to employees and contractors. No more reconciling expense reports or trying to figure out how much to reimburse for that conference last week. 

Virtual business debit cards are easy to use—and you can use them in just about any store. Here's how they work. 

Wait, what is a virtual business card?  

A virtual business card is a virtual card that connects to your business bank account and lets you control how and where it's used. So you can give John a virtual card to buy lunch for a client—but prevent it from being used to fill up his tank (even accidentally.) 

If you're new to the idea of virtual business cards, we wrote an entire post on the topic to get you up to speed.  

Even if you're familiar with virtual business cards, you might not be familiar with how they work. Here's the low down: you can use virtual business cards the same way you would a physical card in most cases. (And, if you use ClearSpend, you can even order a physical card.) 

How do they work in the real world? Here's what you need to know. 

5 ways to buy things with virtual cards (including ways you might not expect!)  

Now that you know what virtual business cards are, you might be wondering how in the heck you use them. Don't worry, there's no complicated five-step process—it's as easy as using any other payment method. 

Here's how: 

1. How to use a virtual card in store 

Want to make a purchase in a store? Just add your virtual card to Apple Pay or Google Pay, then enable NFC (that's the tap to pay option) and you can use it at any in-store merchant that accepts mobile wallets. 

Alternatively, you can show card numbers to a cashier and have them type the numbers in. Remember, you have access to spend control limits, so there's less chance of fraud. 

2. How to use a virtual card online 

What if you want to buy office supplies off Amazon or place an online order for a birthday cake for Steve in accounting? It's easy if you’re using a ClearSpend virtual card. Use the "copy card numbers" feature from the ClearSpend app, paste them into the online store, and check out. You'll have access to the 3-digit card security code, so processing is no issue.

Or, you can go the old-fashioned route and just type in the card numbers at checkout yourself, whatever floats your boat.

3. How to use a virtual card at the gas pump 

Buying gas isn't fun, but paying with your virtual card can be. To buy gas at the pump, add your shiny new (virtual) debit card to your Apple Pay or Google Pay wallet, then tap to check out. 

If the pump accepts Google Pay or Apple Pay, you'll generally see their icons, which look like this:

Apple Pay and Google Pay icons

Some pumps will only display the apple or the letter G. If the pump accepts tap to pay, the icon will usually look something like this: 

Tap to pay icon

What if the pump doesn't have a tap to pay? 😱 No worries, just type in the number to the keypad on the pump. You can also head inside to see if they offer tap to pay at the register or ask the cashier to type in your card number. Easy, peasy. 

4. How to use a virtual card to buy airline tickets 

Heading out to a business conference or to meet a new client? One of the biggest drawbacks of virtual credit cards is they are virtual—and most airlines ask to see your credit card upon check in. 

With virtual business debit cards, you can actually order a physical card to match it, making it easier to pay for travel costs like airline tickets or rental cars. Or, you can add the card to your digital wallet app (Apple Wallet on iPhone or Google Pay on Android) and show that version at the ticket counter.  

5. How to use a virtual card at the grocery store 

Need to pick up coffee for the break room or cleaning supplies for the office nap pods? (Yes, those are really a thing.) Add your virtual debit card to your wallet, then use the tap to pay option at check out. If the terminal asks for a PIN, that means it's trying to process the card as a debit card. Hit cancel and ask the cashier to press credit, or tap "use credit instead" if that's an option. 

If the terminal doesn't have tap to pay, try typing the numbers into the keypad—you'll be back at your desk with a fresh cup of coffee in no time. 

6. How to use a virtual card at the Tesla dealership 

Okay, so technically, you can only pay for the deposit of a new Tesla with a credit card. (They ask for a wire transfer or electronic check for the full balance, lame.) But, theoretically, you could use your virtual business debit card to put down your deposit. 

Even better? If you don't want your employees (or anyone else!) to be able to buy a Tesla using your business account, ClearSpend’s spend control features limit where the card can be used—and how much each user spends. 

Stop micromanaging spend control (without losing control) with ClearSpend 

Ready to get excited about spend control? ClearSpend's Go Card is a full-service virtual business debit card that saves you time and money. Whether you're a business owner or bookkeeper, we make expense report reconciliation a thing of the past. 

Here's how it works: generate as many virtual cards as you need. No really, they're unlimited. Need five? We got you covered. Need five thousand? Not a problem. Fund them from your business bank account, then use the ClearSpend dashboard to set up tight spending controls. 

Seriously, go crazy with it. Set available daily or monthly spending limits, even limit spend with individual merchant categories. Want to give marketing $75 a day for food while they're at a conference? Go for it. Want to give your contractor $500 to purchase supplies at Home Depot? Go to the ClearSpend dashboard, tap a few buttons, and you're covered. 

The best part? All of those features are 100% free. No red tape, spending requirements, or annual fees; just easy access to the tools you need to manage your money.

Final thoughts on using virtual business debit cards 

You've got more important things to do than reconcile employee expense reports. We get it. 

Virtual business debit cards are easy to generate, can be used at just about any merchant, and provide the control you need to keep your business going forward.

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