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The way we pay for goods and services also is changing during the pandemic.

Although it’s illegal in some parts of the U.S. to refuse legal tender (including in the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts, and the cities of San Francisco and Philadelphia), lots of businesses across the country have stopped accepting cash, to help reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.

And, many consumers expect cashless transactions will become the new normal.

Nearly half (49%) of respondents in a recent survey done by Travis Credit Union said they’d like to see cash phased out permanently after the pandemic, and 69% said they foresee a completely cashless future.

What if you’re not ready to let go of bills and coins? Going cashless is not without its concerns. But the biggest pitfall of switching to contactless payments can be avoided with the help of a simple tool.

The price of going cashless

Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock

On the surface, the shift away from cash may seem like a no-brainer, especially as COVID cases continue to spike.

However, while contactless payments may make you feel better about your personal safety, they may raise concerns about the safety of your personal information.

Travis Credit Union’s survey found 7 in 10 respondents were worried about potential privacy breaches when using a digital payment method, and 61% of those who didn’t make digital payments cited privacy or trust issues as their reason for avoiding them.

And not without good reason: 8.4 billion records were left exposed by cybercriminals in the first quarter of 2020 alone, according to the analytics firm Risk Based Security.

But if you’re worried about risks that cashless payments might pose, there’s a simple way you can protect your sensitive data when you shop online: by using a virtual card.

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How to spend securely in a cashless world

Virtual cards
MaximP / Shutterstock

Virtual cards let you conceal your real credit card number and contact information every time you shop online. Instead, a temporary, disposable number is generated for each transaction.

With a browser extension called Privacy, you can create virtual cards on your computer, tablet or smartphone with just one click.

Not only will your personal info be protected from scammers and data breaches, but you’ll also be able to avoid being charged for subscription services you don’t want.

If you sign up for a free trial of a streaming service using a virtual card, you can simply disable the card before your trial period ends, and the subscription won’t be able to auto-renew.

Privacy uses state-of-the art data encryption and follows the same security standards as all the big banks, so you can feel confident about its safety. It’s also free to use, and takes only a few minutes to install.

If you’re planning to go cashless, Privacy can help safeguard your data.


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Shane is a reporter for MoneyWise. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language & Literature from Western University and is a graduate of the Algonquin College Scriptwriting program.

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