MRI using receiver arrays with many coil elements can provide high signal-to-noise ratio and increase parallel imaging acceleration. At the same time, the growing number of elements results in larger datasets and more computation in the reconstruction. This is of particular concern in 3D acquisitions and in iterative reconstructions. Coil compression algorithms are effective in mitigating this problem by compressing data from many channels into fewer virtual coils. In Cartesian sampling there often are fully sampled k-space dimensions. In this work, a new coil compression technique for Cartesian sampling is presented that exploits the spatially varying coil sensitivities in these nonsubsampled dimensions for better compression and computation reduction. Instead of directly compressing in k-space, coil compression is performed separately for each spatial location along the fully sampled directions, followed by an additional alignment process that guarantees the smoothness of the virtual coil sensitivities. This important step provides compatibility with autocalibrating parallel imaging techniques. Its performance is not susceptible to artifacts caused by a tight imaging field-of-view. High quality compression of in vivo 3D data from a 32 channel pediatric coil into six virtual coils is demonstrated. Magn Reson Med, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.