Last year, Capital One, one of the United States' largest commercial banks and credit card issuers, launched Eno, a digital assistant that allows customers to manage their accounts conversationally through SMS.

Now, Capital One has brought Eno to the browser through a new Chrome and Firefox extension that could prove very useful to Capital One cardholders.

The new browser extension aims to help customers avoid one of the biggest problems cardholders face: fraud.

It works by detecting when a user is on a checkout page and automatically creating a one-off virtual credit card number to complete that specific purchase. By using a unique virtual credit card number for each individual purchase, users can be more easily protected from data theft and in the case of a recurring payment, they can more easily prevent a merchant from billing them in the future without their authorization.

Innovation doesn't have to be complicated

As TechCrunch's Sarah Perez noted, virtual credit card numbers are not new. Major card issuers, including Citi and Bank of America, offer them and Capital One introduced them late last year.

Not too long ago, virtual card numbers were a selling point for a number of fintech startups. For example, a venture-backed startup called Final, which billed itself as “a credit card built for the 21st century”, made virtual card numbers a central feature of its service.

Obviously, the barrier to offering virtual card numbers is extremely low, which is why Capital One's Eno browser extension is so important. Specifically, it is unique in that it automatically detects checkout pages and creates the virtual numbers without users having to do so manually. The need to manually create numbers is a significant source of friction that results in virtual credit card numbers not being used as frequently as they could be.

Innovation and competitive advantage

Will Capital One's Eno browser extension give the company a competitive advantage? That remains to be seen. Certainly, fintechs as well as other major card issuers are capable of building similar browser extensions. 

But this is a good example of how established financial institutions can innovate without having to build complex new technologies. Even if the functionality in the Eno browser extension eventually becomes ubiquitous, there's potentially significant value for Capital One if it can market it effectively to cardholders and drive adoption.

After all, even if Eno doesn't drive new cardholder acquisition, it can improve cardholder experience by helping cardholders mitigate against fraud headaches and help Capital One reduce the costs associated with fraud. That's a fintech win-win.

More on fintech:

Patricio Robles

Published 16 March, 2018 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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