If you have a Discover Card, you may have recently received an email informing you that their Secure Online Account Number (SOAN) program is discontinued as of September 8.
This popular security feature was used to create unique virtual credit card numbers for different retailers and transactions so that cardholders could give retailers this number instead of their real credit card number for online purchases.
Some Discover card users also took advantage of the SOAN program to shop online without having to either memorize their regular credit card number or have the card handy for copying off the number. SOAN allowed users to log in to their Discover account online and generate the numbers without having to have the actual card number.
Discover cardholders who have already generated and stored numbers for specific retailers will still be able to use those numbers until their card’s expiration date, but no new numbers can be generated starting September 8. Discover says that a recent increase in security measures overall have made the SOAN program redundant.
This security feature was not prominently advertised, and was not heavily used, though a number of comments after a recent Consumerist article indicated that some cardholders liked the feature and used it regularly, particularly if they had experienced security problems from using regular credit card numbers for online shopping. If the unique number was compromised, it was unnecessary to cancel and replace the credit card.
Discover users are still protected by a 0% liability guarantee if their card is used fraudulently. The only people who should notice any change would be former SOAN users whose real credit card number became compromised. Rather than simply cancel the SOAN, they would have to replace their credit card to ensure security.
For those who are uncomfortable shopping online with their regular credit card number, other card issuers have similar programs:
- Bank of America’s “Shop Safe” program lets users create a unique temporary credit card number linked to their real credit card account for certain online purchases. Merchants are unaware that the Shop Safe number is not a user’s real card number.
- Citi also has a free service providing virtual account numbers for Citi cardmembers. The program works very much like Bank of America’s, generating a unique virtual number for an online purchase.
- While Chase does not offer virtual account numbers, people with Chase Visa cards can use the Verified by Visa program to create a single-use account number for an online purchase.