For more than ten years, Discover Card had a feature called Secure Online Account Numbers. It wasn’t heavily promoted and its presence gradually diminished to a single link at the bottom of your account page, but it was an extra security measure that I appreciated. The feature allowed you to create a custom credit card number for each online merchant you did business with. The number could only be used with that merchant, so in the event of a data breach as in the major one that hit Target, your exposure to fraud would be significantly reduced and recovery from the breach would be much easier to deal with (just deactivate that number and set up a new one for that one merchant, if you still want to do business with them).
I had used these numbers sparingly until a few years back when my main Discover Card number was compromised somehow and used in a fraudulent transaction by, according to the fraud report, Patricia Frankovich of Pittsburgh (who I like to imagine rotting in a jail cell, but unfortunately the small amount of the charge probably didn’t lead to any action). The fallout and recovery from that incident were so painful that I started using the secure online numbers for everything.
Unfortunately, as of March 15, 2014 the feature is now permanently retired, apparently due to patent or licensing issues (the FAQ about the discontinuation says, “Regrettably, the technology on which Secure Online Account Numbers are based is owned by Mastercard and no longer available to us, so we are unable to continue to offer it to cardmembers.”). I’m really looking forward to the day when two-factor authentication is standard for all online transactions.