Card issuing drives loyalty, retention in today’s financial services landscape.

Did you know that in the U.S. cards are used for almost half of all e-commerce transactions? [JP Morgan]. Worldwide, cards are a key part of a customer’s financial experience, which is why more businesses and fintechs than ever are considering issuing their own cards.

There are many benefits to issuing your own cards. However, there’s an active debate over whether it’s best to issue virtual cards, physical cards, or consider both. This article will examine the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and how they connect back to big-picture business goals.

Virtual Card Issuing, Physical Issuing or Both: Which is Best for Your Business?

Getting Started with Card Issuing

To get started with your own card-issuing program, you’ll need to know who the cards are for, what countries you will support, whether your cards will be single or multi-use, and what (if any) spending controls your cards need.

Once these factors have been decided, you must work with a card issuer compliant with local government issuing regulations and collaborate with payment processing networks to facilitate card transactions. It’s also essential that your issuing program supports international, multi-currency transactions since over 45% of online shoppers will buy cross-border [Forrester]. 

Navigating regulatory and compliance hurdles becomes infinitely more challenging for financial institutions working with multiple countries. Because of this, understanding physical and virtual issuing and choosing the right issuing partner are absolutely critical.

Physical Cards vs Virtual Cards

What are the Pros and Cons of Issuing Physical Cards?


  • Customize onboarding, card branding, and card-control rules
  • Can be used to purchase online, in-store and in-app
  • Can provide payments in domestic and international currencies
  • Can be added to mobile wallets
  • Good for countries with limited smartphone and mobile payment access
  • Good for older or less tech-savvy consumers


  • Can be lost, stolen or expire
  • Need to re-issue when expired, lost or stolen
  • Not ideal for single, one-off purchases

Most of us bring our wallet and our cards with us everywhere we go. A physical card is a constant reminder of your brand and all of the payment opportunities it unlocks. Physical cards can be customized with company branding, and be used to purchase online, in-store and in-app. They also are an excellent option for older or less tech-savvy consumers or those located in countries with limited smartphone and mobile payment access.

However, physical cards do have certain limitations. These range from being more easily lost or stolen to taking longer to deploy because of the logistics of printing and shipping cards. For these reasons, certain businesses will find that physical cards are a less flexible option and don’t always meet their customers’ needs.

What are the Pros and Cons of Issuing Virtual Cards?


  • Instant issuance
  • Can generate single or multi-use cards
  • Customizable onboarding and card branding
  • Easy to add and modify card-control rules
  • Can provide real-time payments in domestic and international currencies 
  • APIs put automation and scale at your fingertips
  • More flexible


  • Limited option for countries with less smartphone and mobile payment access

Virtual cards can be a great option for financial institutions seeking to provide recipients with instant card access, lower costs with no need to pay for physical cards or shipping and printing, and scalable integrations that allow for adding virtual card issuing to other applications. Virtual cards also provide global coverage, near-time payments reporting, and have flexible, easily modifiable card-control rules.

In many ways, today’s virtual cards are the same as traditional cards, except in form. Most have the standard 16-digit number, CVC, expiry date, and a PIN-code. Virtual card funding can also be tied to a physical card, or draw funds from a separate banking account or ewallet. However, there’s no fear of the card being lost or misplaced with a virtual card, they can also be added to a smartphone’s digital wallet for easy checkout online and in-store.

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Some of the key differences between physical and virtual cards are the speed of issuing and the ability to choose between single or multi-use cards. With a virtual card, it’s quick and easy for the issuer to send new cards. Companies also have discretion in making cards for one-time or multi-use applications. This allows companies to have greater expense control, or easily issue separate virtual cards to the same individual for different uses. 

However, virtual cards may not work as well for customers in certain countries with limited mobile or payments infrastructure. In these locations, customers may not be able to use a virtual card for offline purchases or ATM withdrawals.

Combining Physical and Virtual Card Issuing Gives the Best of Both Worlds

Combining virtual and physical card issuing gives you the widespread acceptance and tangibility of a physical card with the flexibility of a fully modern, easily customizable virtual payment option. This lets you have the best of both options and more clarity over your cash flow.

Managing and distributing with both virtual and physical cards lets your company better manage expenses, decreases the burden of operational logistics, and even opens up new lines of revenue. 

Finding An International Issuing Provider That Does it All

Whether you decide to issue virtual cards, physical cards, or both, figuring out regulatory and compliance hurdles will be an uphill battle. This is even more challenging for financial institutions working with multiple countries. Finding a single issuer to support both virtual and physical cards who also offers full multi-market regulation and compliance can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Rapyd Issuing Improves Customer Experience and Lowers Costs

That’s where Rapyd comes in. We handle the local licensing and regulations in countries and currencies all across the world and streamline your card issuing program with the Rapyd Issuing API. Our rich feature set can simplify your regional or global B2B and B2C issuing strategy. With Rapyd you can create Visa or MasterCard debit cards tied to a funded account, allowing for more flexibility when managing your issuing program.

Start focusing on growing new markets instead of building a global card issuing infrastructure by choosing the right issuing partner for virtual and regular cards.



J.P. Morgan 2019 Payments Trends – Global Insights Report: Data has been provided to J.P. Morgan Merchant Services by Edgar, Dunn and Company, 2017.

Photo by Mentatdgt for Pexels.

Your Turnkey Global Card Issuing Platform

With Rapyd Issuing, deploy and manage multi-country physical or virtual cards with Rapyd’s card-issuing API. Focus on your business and leave handling local licensing and regulations to us.

  • Reduce Back-Office Administration: Rapyd Issuing offers a single point of access for reconciliation and settlement. 
  • Lifecycle Management: End-to-end card management including activation, funding, card replacements and card reissuing
  • Transaction Management: Real-time balance inquiry, transaction history, refunds, and flexible authorization models provide more control over funds and balances.

Streamline your operations and your issuing costs with Rapyd’s globally scalable, customizable physical and virtual card issuing platform.

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