<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://q.quora.com/_/ad/57754b2a6539434fa2774bb45a3f4e2c/pixel?tag=ViewContent&amp;noscript=1">
Skip to content

Physical cards vs virtual cards: which one to choose

3_physical or virtual cards which one to choose
Physical or virtual cards: which one to choose


Times, when cash payments were the only way to conduct money transactions, have long gone. Now people and businesses use other options, such as online banking with SEPA or SWIFT transactions, payment or credit cards as well as instant payments. It is safe to say that the new methods are overtaking the traditional ones by a margin and have already become the new normal in the world of finance.

Nonetheless, even the new normal sometimes can cause some confusion or ignorance from the wider population, for instance in regards to physical and virtual cards. Both are used for the same purpose, which is to make money transactions or payments in return for some goods or services. However, the way in which they are used as well as the implications of their usage are somewhat different. In what way? Let’s see.

Physical cards

The word physical has a certain connotation to it, giving an impression that it’s something that can be seen, touched or held in one’s arms. And that is the correct impression. Physical payment card means that a person, a card holder, can use it to pay for goods and services in a physical manner, by pressing it to the physical payment terminal. It also means that the person can withdraw physical money from the ATM machine. Interestingly enough, physical cards are not limited to physical use only. Physical cards can also be used to make virtual payments such as online purchases, top ups, transfers etc.

Virtual cards

When it comes to virtual payment cards, the word virtual already gives a clue. This card exists only in the virtual environment. A person cannot touch it, hold it, or use it to withdraw money from the traditional ATM. Though, the technology is developing pretty fast and now there are options available to withdraw physical money even from virtual cards but they are not as common as traditional ones yet.

Virtual cards can be used to make online payments and transactions as well as used for physical payments with the help of smartphones and special applications that allow making an instant payment via payment terminals. So basically, it can be used in a very similar manner as the physical one. The only difference is that when it comes to physical payments and purchases, a physical card is enough to make a payment, whereas for virtual one, additional technology is needed that can be also applied for the physical card.

Different implications

In terms of the implications that come from using different types of cards, there are several elements that are worth mentioning. First and foremost, a physical card by its nature is a less environmentally-friendly option. It requires energy to make one, as well as materials such as plastics to be produced. What is more, additional transportation is required to deliver a card to a person. Not to mention the fact that cards are valid for a limited time only, which means that the whole process has to be constantly repeated.

Another major difference between the two is safety. Both cards carry the same risk in terms of safety in making online transactions. But when it comes to physical payments or simply having a physical card in one’s hand, it becomes evident that something physical also means that something can be lost, misplaced or forgotten. This can cause both financial loss and inconvenience for the card holder. But again, having a virtual card only can similarly cause inconvenience if physical money is needed and there are only traditional ATM machines nearby or a person forgot one’s smartphone or that particular smartphone model does not support certain functionality needed for the money withdrawal.

All in all, both card options are valid and could be widely used for payments, transactions, online and physical purchases, and money withdrawals. It is up to every person or business to choose the best option for them or maybe even have both just in case. Even though the cash era has ended, physical money is still used in circulation and it is unlikely that it will entirely disappear in the near future. The same can be said about physical cards.

Let us know what you think!