Digital card

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A digital card, virtual card or cloud card is an online hosted, digital virtual representation of any plastic card or a generic identification method in IdM (Identity Management). A digital card, unlike a plastic card, doesn't require any physical representation in the first place as it is fully virtual and hosted online.

A digital card can emulate (imitate) any kind of plastic card[1] but is mostly used with a credit card, loyalty card, health insurance card, driver's license, Social Security number, etc.


Front side of the first Magnetic Stripe plastic credit card. Note that the narrow magnetic stripe is on the front of the card. It was later switched to the back side.

In 1960 IBM used the magnetic tape to develop a reliable way of securing magnetic stripes to plastic cards, the most common identification and payment method to date. As technological progress emerged in the form of highly capable and always carried smartphones, handhelds and smartwatches, the term "digital card" was introduced.[citation needed]

On May 26, 2011 Google released its own version of a cloud hosted Google Wallet which contains digital cards - cards that can be created online without having to have a plastic card in first place, although all of its merchants currently issue both plastic and digital cards.[2]

Additional data[edit]

Digital cards are usually stored on a smartphone or a smartwatch. Therefore, informational data from the card's issuer can be transmitted (via Internet) and displayed, such as discounts, news updates, store locations, coupons, etc.


Identification with a digital card is usually done in several ways:

  1. Displaying a QR code on the customer's smartphone to the identifying host (a cashier i.e.). The unique QR code ensures privacy for every customer.
  2. Engaging an NFC protocol connection by placing the smartphone near the NFC Reader (using host card emulation method).
  3. Using IoB (Identification over Bluetooth, an obsolete method which is rarely used) or PoB (Payment over Bluetooth).


There are several virtual card issuing companies located in different geographical regions, such as DiviPay in Australia and Privacy in the USA.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Digital credit card replacement Coin is almost ready to swipe — the Coin Beta begins today". 22 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Google Pay - Learn What the Google Pay App is & How to Use It".