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Discover Card axes temporary number program for online purchases

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Despite increased awareness of credit card number security in the wake of the massive number heist from Target stores recently, Discover announced today that it'll do away with a program that allowed Discover card members to create separate card numbers for different vendors or transactions.

Customers can generate new secure online account numbers through Feb. 6, and all such numbers expire after March 15.

The company declines to provide specific reasoning behind the move, other than to say, "As part of our normal business practice, we routinely evaluate our products and services, and at this time, plan to discontinue secure online account numbers." The company emphasizes that they still offer consumers fraud protection with their "$0 Fraud Liability Guarantee."

Card members looking for an alternative to Discover's discontinued offering can find an even better program with Bank of America's credit cards. Their ShopSafe program lets a card holder create a create a temporary card number, expiration date and security code for each online purchase.

The number links directly to a standard Visa or MasterCard account while keeping the main number undisclosed. A ShopSafe number is used just like a credit card, with merchants none the wiser about the card number's origins.

Bank of America credit card customers can easily generate ShopSafe numbers by logging into an account online, then scrolling down to the ShopSafe section on the right. ShopSafe prompts for a spending limit on the number as well as an expiration date anywhere from two to 12 months in the future.

Temporary card numbers are especially valuable for signing up for offers that claim to be free but require a credit card number to participate. A merchant can't charge the card an amount above the temporary number's credit limit, which can be as little as $10, and they can't tell what purchase limit the number has.