RIP: PayPal Plug-In – No More Single Use Debit Cards

PayPal Plug-In: Single Use Debit Cards

Recently, I received word from PayPal that they’ve decided to discontinue the incredibly useful PayPal Plug-in.

As the final day approaches, PayPal doesn’t seem to be backing down from its impending termination. September 22, 2010 is officially the last day to use the tool.

It’s a sad day. This has been, by far, one of PayPal’s most valuable features.

What Are Single Use Debit Cards?

To anyone who makes online purchases, having the ability to generate a valid, disposable card number is a dream come true. If you’ve ever had a debit card number compromised — either because of bank error, security breaches, or just jerks who get lucky with their random card number software — you know how painful it is to clean up the process. You get to contact the issuing bank, cancel the card, go without usage of it for days or even weeks while they replace it, and deal with the whole issue of getting your money back from whomever may have successfully nabbed some.

What a mess!

It’s like “Identity Theft Lite.”

A couple of years ago, we went through a nasty streak of these problems at my house. On multiple issuing banks, we had several business and personal debit cards compromised. In some cases, there were fraudulent charges (or in some cases, just authorizations). In other cases, we were informed by the bank that there was a breach of security and they recommended immediate replacement.

It’s not a fun situation. Especially when you have meticulous habits (as we do in my house) around using card numbers at reputable sites only, always verifying SSL status before punching a card number in, using firewalls when surfing at public hotspots, etc…

It seems that you can’t be too careful. And even when you’re doing your best, you can get stung through no fault of your own.

So, imagine my delight when I discovered that PayPal was offering a free piece of software that permitted me to generate a brand new card number on demand. There was no physical card attached at all. It was merely a valid card number, complete with its own expiration date (usually about 2 months from the date it was generated), valid CVV digits, and billed to the billing address on my PayPal account. And the best thing? It could only be used once.

So… about to make a purchase from an online retailer that wants to store your credit card information (for your convenience, of course!)? Just open the plug-in, login to PayPal with your password, and in a click or two and about as many seconds on the clock, you’d have a card number that would be approved right away for your purchase… but would forever be declined thereafter.

They even gave me an option of creating multiple use card numbers for recurring billing purposes. Need to be able to track charges from a certain retailer, vendor, or supplier? No problem. Just generate the a multiple-use card number for that vendor, and you’re in full control. You can cancel the number at any time to stop them from charging you… without having to go through the hassle of replacing your physical card and getting stuck without the ability to use it in the meantime.

Don’t have your wallet close by while you’re trying to check out of a website with a purchase? No problem. Just open up another browser window and crank out a valid card number on the spot.

I could go on and on. The usefulness of this fantastic service seemed to grow by the day.

In All Fairness…

The software itself left something to be desired. Originally, I installed the plug-in on my Firefox browser. Over time, as Firefox was updated, the plug-in didn’t get along with it so well. So… I ended up having to install it on the dreaded Internet Explorer. That was a pain… especially since I trust Internet Explorer as far as I can throw it. (Ever tried to throw a piece of software?)

But… despite the rather clunky user interface, and the annoying and odd fact that there was no way to get to your previously generated cards, receipts inbox or the other nifty features of this tool from the main PayPal website (the only way to open that part of their site was to use the plug-in… which took you to that magical part of the site), the tool was still nothing short of invaluable.

What To Do?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m searching for “Virtual Debit Cards,” or “Secure Debit Card Generator,” or “Single Use Debit Cards,” or “Disposable Debit Card” online. Nothing so far seems to be a good match. I’ve found a number of complaints in the PayPal community forums where users like me are publicly lamenting the loss of this tool. There are some complaints from international users that they never had access to the tool to begin with (apparently it was only for US customers).

But nothing that looks like it could serve as a replacement for this valuable tool.

I can’t help but suspect that I’ll be using PayPal less and less. And I’ll probably be more inclined to move any balance in my PayPal account much more quickly into my main business checking account. I’m sure I’ll still use the PayPal debit card that I carry for my business… but probably less often.

Will that hurt PayPal? Probably not much. I’m certainly only one business owner… and I’m guessing that adoption of this tool wasn’t very widespread (otherwise they’d be more aggressively announcing alternative features). So… I’m sure they calculated the risk associated with cancelling the tool and decided it was worthwhile for whatever reason.

But I’ll be moving at least some of my PayPal business once I find a replacement solution.

13 Replies to “RIP: PayPal Plug-In – No More Single Use Debit Cards”

  1. Hal Smith says:

    I lament the loss of the plug-in as well. It is a tool that I use several times every day. I found it useful for just filling out name and address forms with no real effort on my part. Please let me know if you find a substitute for it. I’m sure that it will curtail my use of PayPal.

  2. Melissa says:

    I don’t see any reason for them to have gotten rid of that feature. It was awesome, now I don’t really see a purpose to me using PayPal except for Ebay.

  3. Alan says:

    Discover has something similar, with the stupid drawback that you have to actually *call* them on the phone to cancel one. Defeats much of the point of the thing, but it’s the closest I’ve found so far…

  4. Tom says:

    I too will miss the PayPal Plug In. I liked using that as a way to pay online, but also pay recurring bills without giving the vendors direct access to my bank account. I was considering getting the PayPal Debit card and using that as an alternative. If I suspect any possible fraud I can freeze or cancel that account. I don’t like using credit cards to pay normal bills, and definitely don’t want to use my bank debit card, so this seems like an alternative.

  5. Matt says:

    I’ve been searchning for an alternative for days now, and I can’t find one. Its quite a shame. I’ve tried shopping at several sites for christmas gifts in the last week, but these shops ONLY took credit card.

    I want to pay with my paypal balance, but can’t find a way to translate that into a credit card number. Real shame the plugin is gone, woulda made it easy.

  6. Hal Smith says:

    You would think it might hurt their profits. I find that I only use them about 10% as much as I used to before they stopped the plug-in!

  7. Crystal says:

    I also liked the Paypal plugin. However, “Citibank Diamond” has virtual credit cards. Basically you can generate one time or multi use credit cards. You can set the range of the expiration date, and the value of the card, & have the ability to cancel the card anytime (online). Though its a credit card, as opposed to debit, it is more flexible than the Paypal plugin. Also, if you pay the total balance monthly, you have the protection of using a credit card, with no interest. It’s nice to have alternatives though, which is what I have been searching for.

  8. Hal Smith says:

    Thanks for the info Crystal… I will look into the Citibank card soon. I really miss the PayPal single use card and am open to a replacement. My use of PayPal has dropped off to about 10% of what it used to be.

  9. jeff.sykes – chicago
    James H. says:

    My use of PayPal has plummeted since they did away with this option. There just isn’t any real advantage to using Paypal anymore, in my mind. Here and there for fund transfer between friends, yes. But not for regular purchases, as I had become accustomed to.

    Oh well. Some other company will likely move into this space eventually. I hear that payment processor ETS is developing a “pay by phone” option that will allow you to use your cellphone # and a PIN to make online purchases. This is probably where everything will go in the not-so-distant future. You’ll be able to transfer funds to that account, load a balance, etc. I’ll be all over that.

  10. You could go to and purchase a gift card to you favorite online shop. The gift card claim code is delivered instantly, so you can go shopping right away! This is a great solution to not having the Paypal plugin anymore.

  11. Nightbird says:

    I wanted one of these onetime credit cards to be able to take advantage of certain products that come with “club” memberships, like ProActiv or Principle Secret, and to avoid the hassle of having to call them repeatedly to cancel the subscription. They all claim easy canceling..and they all usually lie.

    If you know the amount of money you are going to spend, would a prepaid credit card from Walmart work? Do those come with a security code on the back like regular credit cards? I know it’s still a hassle to have to leave your home to get it..but would that work..or will companies know it’s just a prepaid credit card and not accept it?

  12. truetoblue
    tom says:

    I’m pretty sure that they HAD to stop using them because of all the flak they received from many of their clients. The very nature of the “Special Offers” with LOW entrance rates is to generate the “auto-payments” schedule. Very often part of the agreement is to buy AT LEAST one month at the “normal” RIDICULOUS price after the trial period, and of course with the use once card the auto-payments were NEVER generated…often in violation of the fine print at the very bottom of the agreement. And PayPal was held liable.

    I hate it, because I used it many times myself, but I do understand WHY.

  13. i too was one of that paypal add-on to generate cvv for vendors who only accept credit cards as payment and do not accept paypal through the normal paypal web link. i was not using that feature for nearly a year and just came back searching for it to buy something from amazon but no matter how i try i could not get to it any more. this is the first web page i found that it was terminated awhile ago. i have had issue submitting my credit/debit cards as payment because vendor simply keep charging the cards later. sure i can go through the process to cancel the charge etc. but that is not an EZ by just a few clicks on the web as paypal add-on use to be.
    too bad we can not use that security feature any more.

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