How online retailers trick you into signing up for costly monthly memberships

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When in doubt, generate a one-time-use or set-limit virtual card number from a service like Privacy.


I came here to say exactly this.

Good luck milking one more thin dime than the purchase price out of me, suckers.


Indeed, this is one feature of Apple Card that I’m excited for.

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I use Privacy and it is great. My concern is that if you sign up for a monthly service and stop paying, will it hurt your credit record?

The people who exploit this state of affairs to build business models that are pretty much cramming operations deserve to be fed to the wood chipper, feet first; but I’m never quite jaded enough to be wholly unsurprised by the fact that payment systems still in common use and considered to be current have essentially no provision whatsoever, or even a broken attempt at one that suggests someone tried, for a state between ‘no business relationship’ and ‘now they can unilaterally send bills that will be honored by default’. The naive observer would have suspected that ‘I wish to pay $X, once’ would be kind of a major use case.

Its especially striking in the nominally modernized stuff: sure, back when credit card numbers were carbon-papered onto receipts and reconciled periodically there wasn’t a lot of room for granular authentication; but they went to all the trouble of adding in a cryptographic verification chip scheme to overhaul the sorry state of the authentication fraud side and essentially did nothing whatsoever on the transaction authorization side.

It’s almost as though someone’s incentives aren’t aligned properly.


That’s a good question. Obviously with Fenty they have all your address and everything, so I suppose it would be possible to ding you.

I’d just assume they’d discontinue the subscription when they can no longer bill you for it. But if you care about your credit rating, perhaps do think twice.

I suspect that a legal idealist’s reading of the FCRA, FACTA; and FCBA would be “no, the consumer is legally entitled to a variety of legally mandatory means of recourse in the event of a billing error or dispute!”

Anyone else would just note that the reports of data furnishers to credit reporting agencies seem to be accorded roughly the same level of instinctive trust normally reserved for even the most fanciful testimony by law enforcement agents; while you are beating the odds if you even manage to get in touch with someone to complain to; much less get them to care.

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Thanks for this. I had no idea this existed.

I’ve always used BoA’s ShopSafe tool but it’s a pain since you have to log in, find the link, and put in that “secret” code from the back of your card. Plus it’s Flash-based so it really doesn’t work in any of my browsers anymore.


You might have to wait a bit longer. I’m pretty sure the Apple Card doesn’t support single use or fixed amount numbers. You can generate a new number in the app, but that’s not quite the same thing. I think that also invalidates your existing number, although I haven’t tried it yet.

I’m also not sure if the number in the app is the same as the number embedded on the strip on the card. But overall, it’s a vastly improved experience compared to other cards I have.

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I know in the latter case, that the apple pay and card numbers differ, but indeed. Fixed amount numbers are an awesome addition Apple Card does not have.

It does have virtual card numbers per online transaction, but that wouldn’t defend against this case unless they are also single-charge.

I would love to see the fixed value feature get some mainstream traction!

The Apple Pay numbers differ—each device gets a unique number—but are you sure the card number is different? There is a place in the app where you can see your full card number and CVV in case you need to do a transaction over the phone. I thought that was the physical card number, but it could be yet another number—not Apple Pay and not the physical card.

I didn’t think every transaction got its own number. There was some reporting to that effect early on, but Apple Pay seems to generate a fixed number by device, and you can view the last 4 digits in the Wallet. Maybe they’re doing something in addition, though. I’m not an electronic payments expert by any stretch. Sorry to drag this off topic!

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You are more correct than I am:

Virtual Card Numbers for Online Non-Apple Pay Purchases

There are no credit card numbers or other information on the physical titanium Apple Card. This data is instead available in the app, leaving some questions about online purchases where you often need a number and a CVV.

Apple Card is able to generate virtual card numbers for these kinds of purchases. The Wallet app provides a virtual card number and a virtual confirmation code, with the number being semi-permanent and able to be regenerated whenever you want. This info can be used for non-Apple Pay online purchases, over-the-phone purchases, and other similar situations.

There is not, however, support for single-use numbers or single-merchant numbers for having separate card numbers for different merchants. Purchases are also protected by a one-time use dynamic security code rather than a persistent CVV.

It’s still a step up at least, you can only give your virtual card number out for online purchases and rotate it (presumably) easily.

I could see a situation where you use the real number for recurring purchases, and the virtual one for one-offs. Then the impact of rotating it is less onerous than it would otherwise be if you also had recurring payments on it.

Privacy frankly sounds pretty awesome, though - as long as you can generate a card # on the fly as needed - but I think for my specific usecase, having a “one-time” virtual card and a more permanent “recurring” number for reputable merchants I intend business with over multiple charges works. YMMV of course.

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Good info! If I’d bothered to look in the app, I’d have seen it shows the “card” number for those manual transactions, and last four for the physical card. It’s good to know I can regenerate that manual number and it’s separate from the physical card.

But you couldn’t split usage (recurring vs. one-offs) if you need to manually provide a card number—there’s only one number you can ever see in total. The rest, including the physical card, just tells you the last 4. Although if you had a stripe reader you could dump the stripe info and get the physical card number, I think. I think that’s by design—they really want you to use the number you can regenerate for manual transactions, not the number where they’ll have to send another fancy titanium card if stolen.

I now have a running fence in with on the unsubscribe button

wait, it will let you generate virtual cards? i didn’t catch that bit.

simply not selling my purchase history seemed like a big draw to me, i’ll trade an extra 2% to know i won’t have my bar purchases sold to my insurance actuary


In this particular case Rhianna Fenty must address her fans and explain how she would so ill use them.

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