Nowadays, virtual credit cards are one of the safest ways you can buy online, without having to share bank account details or card details. In my article on alternative payment methods (especially useful if you don’t have a credit card), I mentioned virtual credit cards, specifically VCpay and how it can be used to purchase items online.
The fact is that Entropay, another top virtual credit card provider, does not allow you to top up via EFT from South Africa – only allowing you to link your debit card or credit card. And one of the reasons why someone would use a virtual credit card service in the first place is because they don’t want to put their card details online. On top of that it is an international company, so potential disputes will be harder to settle. It also has many fees – deposit fees, transaction fees, account dormancy fees and fees for taking money out of your Entropay account and putting it back into your bank account. Plus it isn’t very secure in my mind. That’s why I would more readily recommend VCpay over Entropay for South Africans, and in this article I’m going to show you how to set it up.
You can send the card details that you've generated with VCpay to someone else via email, SMS, or Whatsapp, so they can use it for online purchases. Much better than giving someone your credit card!
You can link VCPay with your credit card and either be billed per transaction or billed later, aka postpaid, but the safest way to use VCpay is to go prepaid.
In the past you needed to have an EasyPay account but now you can just transfer funds directly from your bank account into a VCPay wallet.
Bluestacks comes in two flavours: a paid subscription version, or pro version, and the free version. The free version will make you install sponsored apps every day you use it.
You’ll need a smartphone (Windows Phone, iPhone, or Android phone or tablet -- Blackberry support seems to have been discontinued) to run the VCpay app.
If you don’t have this, it is possible to run VCpay on Bluestacks, which is an Android emulator for use with a PC or MAC. Bluestacks is probably better than other Android emulator programs, because most of the others require virtual machines and a very beefy rig in order to work properly, or at all even -- not to mention some of the others are a bit dodgy. I can run Bluestacks on a low spec laptop. As long as you have at least 2 GB of RAM, you should be good to go.
Either is fairly simple to do. With a phone, just visit either the official website and get a direct link sent to your phone so you can download it, visit the official website on your mobile and download it directly, or visit the page for the app on Google Play (you’ll need a Google account obviously), or Apple iTunes, or The Microsoft Store.
Where this differs with Bluestacks is you have to go to the Google Play store – you can’t have it sent to your phone because you don’t have a number if you’re using Bluestacks.
- Download the VCpay app by Net1 Solutions and it will install. There are two different VCpay apps on both Apple iTunes and Google Play, by the same company. You want the one that is linked to above for Android and iOS respectively, with the green colour scheme, not the orange one.
- Register with the app by providing your name (only first name and surname -- no middle names), mobile number, and ID number.
- You'll get an OTP sent to your registered mobile number which you'll need to enter on the app to complete registration.
You're not finished yet though, seeing as you'll just have the trial version of the product, which is only really good for looking at the app and its options. If you want to actually buy things online, you'll need to provide VCPay with your details. So email scans of your ID (which must be certified -- more on this later), and proof of address (phone or utility bill, etc.) to VCPay, or fax it through to them.
You need to get a copy of your ID certified by visiting the police station, a lawyer or qualified staff at your local post office. Certified ID lets you buy locally. If you want to purchase items internationally, then you need to provide proof of address as well.
If you're using VCPay for the first time, you're all set and can transfer money from you bank account into your VCpay wallet, and start spending. If you used their old app at any point, especially if you deposited funds into it, you should ask VCPay to transfer funds from the old app to the new one.
Topping up a prepaid wallet
You’ll need to deposit funds into your prepaid wallet. You can do this in one of four ways:
1. Visit a participating store
Phone ahead at your local stores and find out if they top up EasyPay wallets. At the till, you just ask to top up your EasyPay wallet, and then provide your 20 digit transaction number (which you can find by accessing the VCPay app on your device) and then hand over the funds you wish to deposit. You can do this with a card (you can even get rewards with programs such as eBucks) or you can pay with cash. You may have to provide some form of identification such as your ID, passport or your driver's licence.
The best thing about doing it this way besides the fact that it is quite secure, is that you don’t even need a bank account! But on the downside there is a 5% deposit fee. The other downside is that the people there likely won't know what you're talking about. That's what happened to me!
2. Top up from an EasyPay kiosk
This way you’ll need to provide your fingerprints, and in future you’ll be able to sign in with a biometric scan to top up your account. Here you can pay with cash. The only downside with this method is that there aren’t that many EasyPay kiosks around as far as I am aware. I haven't seen any recently. You may or may not need to enter your registered phone number and your EasyPay PIN number as well.
3. Load a voucher
VCPay may or may not give out promotional vouchers that you can use to add funds to your VCPay wallet. Other people can also pay for vouchers in-store and give them to you.
4. EFT funds over from your bank account
VCpay provides bank details on their website for their accounts with FNB, Standard Bank, ABSA, and Nedbank. Just log into your online banking profile, do a once-off payment to the account number (also include the branch code) and then put the mobile number you registered with VCpay in as your reference. Send over as much money as you desire, and you should receive an SMS telling you that your wallet has been credited with the amount you transferred.
Make sure to save the beneficiary, especially if you are with Standard Bank – they make it compulsory to do so within 30 days of transferring money to Net1’s account. FNB has Net1 listed as a public beneficiary so that should make things easier for you if you fear typing the wrong account numbers, etc. There’s no deposit fee like there is if you pay over the counter, so that’s one more thing in this method’s favour. Of all the ways to top up, this is the one I like best, because I can do it in under 5 minutes and I don't even have to leave the house. There is a service free of R7 (FNB), but it's fixed.
So while the top up at the till method proves to be more cost effective on small amounts, (i.e. 5% on R100 = R5, whereas the EFT option would cost your R7) when it goes over R140 (where the fees would be equal), then the 5% fee is going to cost you more (i.e. 5% on R200 = R10, compared to the fixed fee of R7 via EFT).
If you want to change your phone number associated with VCPay. Then you will have to re-register with VCPay by submitting the right forms to them (certified copy of ID and proof of address).
If you are only using VCPay on a new device and the number is still the same, then you can just log in with your existing details and not bother with re-registering.
Now, back to VCpay. You can now log in to the app and check your funds. Go to the home page bit and then here is where you will create a card to pay for whatever it is you want to buy. So make sure to get to the transaction page on the website you’re buying from and then type in the exact amount of the item in VCpay. So for instance, if an item costs R9.99, then type in 9.99 (remember the decimal!), check the currency (you get a few, including SA Rand, US Dollar, British Pound, and Euro), and then create the card.
You can then type in the card number, the name as it appears on the card, the CVV number (or security number) and the expiry date of the card into the page at the website which needs your card information. You can leave out the other fields like start date of card – that isn’t made available by VCpay and it probably isn’t as important. You are also given a 3D Secure code which may be required by some stores.
Then go through with the payment and voila, you have just bought something online with a virtual credit card!
While it is apparently possible to use a virtual card generated by VCpay to link a bank account with PayPal, it is not recommended as some users have reported that their PayPal accounts were locked because of this.
An official representative of PayPal claims that this is due to the nature of virtual credit cards. What they really expect is a credit card or cheque card issued by a bank, if you reside in SA.
It’s all safe seeing as the most anyone could do would be to get into your VCpay account (they would have to know information like your phone number and PIN and spend whatever you have in your wallet. That’s why I would recommend that you not only use the prepaid option instead of linking your credit card, but that you only put in at most a few hundred rand at a time if you’re going to let it sit. If you are going to transfer more than that, make sure you spend it quickly or else consider another payment option if it is available.
Cards comes in two forms: single-use, and multi-use. With single-use, another card has to be generated when you want to buy something else. This means if someone were to intercept the card details, they would be useless. Multi-use cards are riskier, because if the details were intercepted, then that card can be reused as long as there are still funds on it.
Cards can only be cancelled if you haven’t yet used it to purchase something, to my knowledge.
Oh, and perhaps if you were wondering: you can't use VCpay offline in-store. It's for online purchases only.
I just wanted to say that VCPay users would have received an SMS notification in March, 2015 telling them that VCPay has updated their app, and customers who have funds in their old account must register on the new app (not login with your old details) and then request that VCPay migrate funds to their new account.
It all seems legitimate, because looking at the page for the app on Google Play for Android devices, it was updated on March 2, 2015.
You must also submit a certified copy of your ID and proof of address through to them (email or fax) to be able to use the app to buy online.
The fee structure has changed a bit. It's still free to register on the app and to upgrade it, but there's now a 2% fee on international purchases.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Anti-Valentine
Chad Smith on October 01, 2020:
Thank you for the information!
Anti-Valentine (author) from My lair on March 14, 2017:
You must use your government issued ID number.
mstephens on March 14, 2017:
what ID number for VC? Do I make one up?
Zaton-Taran from California on February 10, 2017:
Not a bad addition to the slate of credit cards articles on here. thanks for taking the time and making the effort!
anta on September 06, 2016:
where can i get my id number ? it says invalid even though its my citizenship number
sailtrader on August 13, 2016:
Good article ....
Eben Terblanche on August 04, 2016:
Excellent article. The only problem is that they are not allowed to do international transactions anymore which makes the whole exercise pointless. I created the account, loaded up money and when I tried to upgrade I got the following notice:
IMPORTANT NOTICE - Unfortunately due to changes requested by the South African regulators, we have had to put a temporary hold on all international transactions for new users (registered after 20/NOV/15). We are working with the regulators to remedy/resolve this hold and hope to unlock them again soon.
So once again I cannot buy anything since I do not have a CC.
Maxine on March 17, 2016:
This sounds good to use with PayPal. Thank you for the information!