If you’re like me you might get various payments into PayPal and you like the convenience of turning around and using this money to buy something online. But, what if the merchant in question doesn’t take PayPal? Well, you could use your PayPal Debit card, if you have one, or you could transfer money around to make a payment on another credit card. Now PayPal is offering another way to do this, the PayPal Secure Card built into a browser plugin.
PayPal has had virtual secure cards through MasterCard for about 18 months. This system allowed you to get a temporary card number for a one time purchase. The new system uses a browser plugin to generate this number right on the merchant’s page without you having to hop back and forth between different sites in different browser windows or tabs.
Of course, security is a concern for this type of thing. The plugin doesn’t store credit card information locally on the PC and it requires a login to PayPal to generate a card number. It has built-in phishing detection as well. In theory, this plugin should make certain kinds of credit card fraud and theft much more difficult.
Should demographic collection be a concern? It’s possible. The plugin will detect when you’ve connected to an e-commerce site. It’s not clear at this point if it will “phone home” with this information. It’s easy to see how this information would be quite useful to online merchants. I’d hope PayPal would be open about this aspect of it.
US and Windows Only For Now
Yes, as is typically the case, this service is being rolled out for US users first with international customers coming on board later by country.
Support for the browser plugin is only for Windows systems running Internet Explorer or Firefox. Mac users only get partial support in Safari. I didn’t see any info about Linux usage in the press releases.
This plugin does offer some promise of making online transactions more secure. I do have some concerns over potential demographic marketing collection not related to actual purchases and the reliability of PayPal’s customer service which doesn’t have a particularly stellar record. However, I like the security provided by temporary credit card numbers. I’ll probably give it a try at some point.
What do you think? Would you use it? Why or why not?
(Please don’t link to the PayPalSucks site in your comments. It’s simply a clever affiliate marketing site for a competing credit card processor.)