Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The New Face Of Credit Cards

I take time off from the political discourse to talk to something that might be of interest to all of us...Credit Card usage...We all use them....Debit Cards...These are some new things that are sure to be of interest that are coming down the pike..

The way we pay for stuff with plastic has changed a lot over the years, from the explosion in debit card usage over the last couple decades(Remember MAC cards??) to the proliferation of rewards cards from retail stores, airlines and hotel chains.(Seems like every store has it's own card and it'sown rewards plan doesn't it?) The physical features of cards have also evolved.

Here are some of the ways that the look and feel of your credit or debit card has changed over the last several years, and how it will continue to change in the near future.

 A. The End of Raised Numbers
Seeing credit cards with embossed characters -- that is, those raised numbers and letters on the front of the card -- brings to mind the old days, when credit card transactions were carried out with "knuckle buster" devices that took a physical imprint of the card.(I worked in retail and I hated those machines..believe me..I busted my knuckles a couple of times on them.) The embossed characters also served a security function by making it harder to duplicate a card.

"At the time, an embossing machine was pretty expensive for crooks to get their hands on," says Raul Vargas of Identity Theft 911.

Both functions now seem somewhat archaic. It's easier for identity thieves to replicate the embossing, and most transactions are carried out by swiping the magnetic strip. As such, both Visa and MasterCard now offer customers flat cards without the 3-D lettering.

One advantage to unembossed cards is that your local bank can make you one on the spot, allowing you to go into a bank and walk out with a new credit card.

"There has been a move to put instant issuance of the card into the branch," explains David Robertson, publisher of consumer payment journal The Nilson Report. "It's there that you're seeing cards issued with less levels of personalization than are available to the bureau mailing the card."

Unembossed cards are far from becoming the standard, in part because many merchants still rely on old-fashioned carbon-copy devices as a backup. Robertson says hundreds of thousands of the devices are still sold every year. But don't be surprised if the next card you get is smooth to the touch.

B. So Called Smart Cards

Magnetic strips replaced carbon-copying a long time ago, but even they aren't the most up-to-date way of paying with a credit card. So-called smart cards use embedded chips instead of magnetic strips to make payments. Depending on the technology, the chip may require you to insert the card into a slot or simply wave it at a special terminal.

The terminals can be found everywhere from gas stations to New York City cabs, and issuers offer a variety of contactless cards (like MasterCard's PayPass line). Still, chipped cards are by no means common in the U.S., as adaptation of the chipped cards (and the terminals that accept them) has been relatively slow here when compared with Europe, where smart cards are the standard. But that's going to change in the next decade.

"(The issuers) have all committed to chipped cards," says Robertson. "It's a multistep process, and the first step will involve the merchants' side, with banks sending out directives to the merchant community."

The first deadline is just a year away, he says, and he estimates there will be widespread use by 2015.

Even then, don't expect to see the magnetic strips disappear. Even those ahead-of-the-curve folks among you who currently use smart cards generally have hybrid cards with both chips and magnetic strips, so that they can be used at either kind of terminal. That's likely to continue for the foreseeable future as retailers and some of us,myself included are slow to adapt.

"There will be some merchants who deploy terminals by the deadline, but it's overwhelmingly likely that most will not meet the deadline," says Robertson. "This is not a situation where someone snaps their finger and it all gets done."

C. Security Features of the Future

Embossed numbers are among several physical security features implemented by card makers over the years, all with the goal of making the cards difficult to replicate.

"They updated the signature panel so it's not just a blank sticker," says Vargas. For instance, the background of the panel was layered with the words "Visa" or "MasterCard." A similar approach was taken with the logo itself: On closer inspection the Visa logo was revealed to be made up of tiny V's. And then there were the holograms embedded in the front of the card, which were likewise difficult to copy. But all three have seemingly fallen out of favor.

"They used holograms because they're hard to replicate, but I don't think many issuers use holograms anymore," says Vargas. The same holds true for the special logos designed from tiny letters. Meanwhile, the patterned background of the signature panel appears on fewer cards these days. It seems that as crooks became more sophisticated, it stopped being worth the trouble for banks to load their cards up with fraud-proof design features.

"U.S. banks care about cost versus rewards," says Vargas. "Twenty years ago the hologram stopped fraud, but now that the crooks have the technology to reproduce that, it's no longer worth it."

What security features will remain? There is the CVV code, the three-digit numerical string on the back of the card intended for card-not-present transactions. And if you have a smart card -- especially one without a magnetic strip -- it will be difficult for a thief to steal the payment data off it (whether or not you wrap it in tinfoil.) The hologram is evolving, too. In 2005, for instance, MasterCard introduced cards that embed holograms directly into the magnetic strip.
D. Crazy and Offbeat Designs
If doing away with embossed lettering doesn't make your card sleek and stylish, why not take the next step and just do away with numbers and lettering altogether? That's what Discover did with its Discover it card, which removes the name and number from the front of the card, leaving only the logo. The relevant information is instead on the back of the card.
And lest you think that a card with no readily visible name on the front is less secure, note that it comes with a patterned signature field, a hologram-embedded magnetic strip and $0 liability on fraudulent purchases. And the rewards aren't bad, either.
Other issuers have gone in the opposite direction, adorning the card with bells and whistles in an attempt to separate themselves from the pack. Take the Citi 2G, a rewards card that Citibank began testing back in 2010. The card is adorned with two tiny buttons: one for regular credit card transactions, and another which allows you to pay for your purchase with whatever rewards you've managed to accumulate. A tiny light will even indicate which mode you're in.
E.New Materials
In closing, a lot of credit and debit card issuers have experimented with different materials for their cards. The American Express Centurion card, for instance, is made of anodized titanium, while the J.P. Morgan Palladium card is made of palladium and gold.

These and other nonplastic credit cards are generally geared toward an exclusive, high-income crowd, so chances are you won't get to pull one out of your pocket. Still, it's a good example of how issuers are using unique design choices to differentiate their cards from the competition.
At this rate...actually dollar bills and coins may one day be seen as a thing of the past!
A public service announcement from the Maverick of All Bloggers!


Keith said...

Guess Nobody cares about their credit!

Vishenda said...
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Vishenda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mariya sharapova said...

You have to make sure that you pay more than the minimum amount to make sure that your debt will decrease.
Cabelas Credit Card


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