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Wondering if anyone knows the laws in regard to credit card numbers. Specifically, if I swipe my card at a retailer or type it in online, how long does the provider get to keep the number?...

By provider, you mean the retailer/business? I am not aware of any laws/rules that says that there is a maximum time limit as to how long they can store your card number. At a minimum, they would probably need to keep your number at least as long as the consumer is allowed to dispute the charge - 60 days after the statement showing the charge is sent to a consumer in most cases; potentially longer if there is a specified delivery date associated with the purchase. Because of the dispute provisions, I would say that most businesses would probably keep numbers on file a minimum of 105 days......Assuming that the consumer's most recent statement was sent out the of the purchase, so the next statement is likely to go out 30 or 31 days later, plus the 60 day dispute timeframe, plus an extra 2 weeks just to provide some time for the credit card company to process the dispute and notify the business.

Is there anyway to use the card such that its impossible for the retailers to keep? Seems like sometime ago I heard something about disposable numbers?

Several credit cards have a feature of providing you limited use numbers that are different from your credit card number. The 'limitation' can be that the number is only good for a specific amount, for a specific business, for a specific timeframe, or some combination thereof. You need to check your particular credit card's features to see if they have that type of service. If you can't find it in the terms and conditions and/or on their website, you can call customer service and ask if the card provides this option.

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