Approximately 80% of my household purchases are transacted online. One of the most insidious disadvantages in visiting web sites is the increased problem of credit card and identity theft. Generally speaking, reputable websites secure their transaction pages with encryption technology to thwart computer hackers. However, there is always some risk involved in typing in your credit card information onto a web form. That's why it's important to have additional security to make the job of potential thieves more difficult. Citibank has introduced the **Citibank Virtual Account Number** (VAN), which gives its customers the ability to generate a credit card number with a dollar and/or time limit. This improves online security because it ensures that no one will be able to charge more to the virtual account number than the amount that you set. Here's how it works: I find a $29 sweater that I want to purchase. I put the sweater into my online cart and head to checkout as I normally would. Then, I open up the Citi VAN program (which looks like a virtual credit card and is available for download on Citibank's website) and I log in. Next, I click on advanced options and select **"Generate Virtual Account Number with $ limit".** I set the limit to $35, which includes the cost of shipping. The program generates a brand new Mastercard number with a $35 limit and an expiration date of the next month. I click on the *auto-fill* feature and the program fills in the checkout form for me. Alternatively, you can simply drag the virtual number and security code and drop them into the proper fields on the checkout form. That's all there is to it. The virtual number is tied to my actual credit card account. Citibank makes it easy to keep track of your virtual numbers and limits. With Citibank VAN, I have ensured that the merchant cannot charge my card more than the set amount. In the unlikely event that an unscrupulous employee grabbed the credit card number during the checkout process, he would be unable to go on a shopping spree on my dime. Additionally, the VAN keeps merchants from "mistakenly" overcharging or charging your card multiple times. For example, if you sign up for a 3-month online service, you can avoid the company's "auto-billing" policy by setting your expiration date to end at 3 months. That way, if you forget to cancel the service, you won't have to worry that you will mistakenly get *auto-billed* and continue to get charged for a service you don't want. How great is that? There are also options to use a VAN with the same merchant for more than one purchase, increase the dollar amount, or to extend the expiration date. I've never used those options, but it's nice to know there is some flexibility in the program. The only problem I've ever had when using the VAN is when I attempted to use it for a 90-day deferred billing promotion at one web retailer. The transaction went through when I placed the order, but at the 90-day point when the retailer attempted to use the card number, it didn't go through and I had to make a phone call to straighten it out. I cannot say it was the fault of the VAN's functionality; I may have incorrectly set the expiration date of the virtual card number. If you currently have a Citibank credit card and you do a fair share of internet shopping, I highly recommend the Citibank Virtual Account Number. It has given me peace of mind when I shop online.