Credit Cards

Tips, news, reviews, caveats, trends, updates and analysis related to consumer and business credit cards, and prepaid debit cards. From the interest rate specialists @

Monday, December 14, 2015

Where's My Smart Card?

Citi MasterCard with PayPass Sticker
Citi® MasterCar®d with PayPass® Sticker
I was so envious reading about people getting their new smart credit and debit cards from card issuers, and I was starting to wonder why the banks I deal with hadn't sent me new smart cards automatically (smart card, also known as smart chip cards, EMV cards and chip-enabled cards.)

The tiny chips in smart cards work together with smart-card terminals to create a unique and secure transaction at the point of sale, which makes shopping with these cards much safer than cards that only have a swipeable magnetic strip. 

I'm not interested in having a radio-frequency identification (RFID)-enabled chip in my credit and debit cards, because of this, but I am interested in upgrading to smart credit and debit cards without the RFID.

OK, so it seems that banks like +Citi® have figured how to keep wary cardholders like yours truly happy by separating the RFID from the EMV, via a sticker (pictured, top left.)  You can attach the sticker to your smart phone, or to your credit or debit card, or to anything you'd like to use for contactless payments (like your car's key fob.)  This system lets cardholders use contactless payment technology (either RFID or near-field communication [NFC]) if they want to, and opt out very easily if they don't.

I Just Ordered My Citi EMV Card

With my Citi Dividend World MasterCard®, I clicked the Account Management link in the top left navigation bar, which took me to a page where I found a link for Replacement Card/Chip Upgrade.  Alternatively, I could have waited for my current card to expire, at which point Citi would have sent me a new smart card automatically.

I'm looking forward to the arrival of this smart credit card, as it means no more handing over my card to strangers who may do bad things with it while it's away from my eyes.


Note that:

  • Even with smart cards that have no RFID technology in them, the system can still be hacked, but it's still much safer than the fading standard of magnetic-strip swiping.

  • I've read of people complaining that they can't execute a convenient cash withdrawal on top of a purchase when using their smart debit card.

  • Also heard that some merchants are rejecting the old magnetic-strip cards now, because if the transaction turns out to be fraudulent, it's likely that the merchant will have to eat 100% of the cost, whereas before the cost would often be shared between the card issuer and the merchant.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

How To Disable An RFID Chip In A Debit / Credit Card

Having an RFID chip in your credit or debit card can be a security risk, as posted here, so here's a YouTube clip explaining how to disable these chips permanently...

Cards that use RFID chips include Visa® PayWave®, MasterCard® PayPass®, American Express® ExpressPay® and Discover® Zip.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Credit-Card Fraud, Xmas Shopping Seasons 2013

Target card swipe machine
Target card swipe machine
40 million was the initial estimate of Target customer card accounts accessed by scammers.

Now the estimate has been raised to 110 million!


I used to shop at Target many years ago.  It's been at least 4 years since I've been in a Target store.

But this news still makes me a bit nervous, because I have no idea how long Target keeps credit card info in their databases.

Most of my cards have new numbers now, but who knows.  These scam artists are scum, but they are not stupid.   

Back in 2008, I treated a new friend to lunch at Red Lobster.

I paid the bill with my Chase debit card, a card that's linked to my business checking account.

As is the custom in the USA, the waitress took my card, disappeared with it, then returned to my table for a signature.  She was acting a bit strange; shifting eyes and somewhat hurried, but I thought nothing of it.

And that was the first time I've ever been a victim of a credit-card scam.

That waitress used one of the widely available, and very portable, card readers, to get my digits.

I got my money back, after faxing a reasonably simple, but still annoying, form.

But the incident was a real wake up call for me.  Using the debit card attached to my business checking account for such transaction was something I would never do again, I pledged to myself.  Way too risky!

Now here's a very interesting difference between Europe and America: when you're ready to pay your restaurant bill with a credit or debit card, the server will bring the credit card terminal to your table!  Your card never leaves your line of sight.

         And that's the way it should be.

Europeans are also ahead of the game with their adoption of smart cards.  Comparing magnetic strip payment cards to smart chip cards is like comparing audio cassette tapes to a digital music player full of MP3's.

Neiman Marcus
Neiman Marcus
American credit-card banks have been resisting the smart card thing, which really doesn't make sense to me.  Surely the cost of upgrading is less than the cost of dealing with payment-card fraud!

Fast forward to today: luxury retailer Neiman Marcus reports a serious payment-card related breach.  All this card fraud seems to be focused on the 2013 Xmas shopping season.

Credit-card rewards be damned!  I think paying with cash will be king for many months to come...

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Very Nice Thank You from Bank of America

Bank of America Reward Debit Card
Bank of America Reward Debit Card
Apparently, Bank of America is very happy with the interest income they are making from me with my business credit card.  They sent me a generic, $25 debit card (Reward Card.)  Domestic use only!

How did I use it?  Some sushi for my daughter and yours truly.  It was nice.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to Keep Your Credit Card Numbers and Other Private Information Safe When Shopping Online

credit cards
credit cards
Submitting credit card numbers and other sensitive information online shouldn't be cause for cold sweats and sleepless nights. Despite the efforts of identity thieves and other Internet criminals, shopping online is still safe, as long as you stay informed about the tools and tricks Internet crooks use to scam the unaware.

Shopping online using credit cards has become so mainstream that it's hard to remember a time when Internet shopping didn't exist. Shopping online makes perfect sense: it's efficient and convenient, and it makes comparison shopping much easier. Though most online retailers utilize sophisticated systems to keep their servers safe from hackers and other Internet fraudsters, there are still a numbers of best practices consumers should heed to ensure that each and every online shopping experience is as safe as possible.

  • If your credit card company offers virtual credit card account numbers, then use them. A virtual credit card number is a temporary, randomly-generated number that's attached to your credit card account. You can use virtual numbers to pay for goods or services online, instead of your real credit card account number. If you generate a virtual account number for use on a particular website, the virtual number will be valid for that website and only that website. If you want to buy 3 items at 3 unique sites, you would generate 3 unique virtual numbers.

    Having read the above, you might be thinking that it would be a hassle to generate a virtual number every time you arrive at the checkout page of an online retailer. But considering the peace of mind that using virtual numbers affords you, it's worth it. Credit card companies don't charge a fee for generating virtual numbers, and the process of generating a number is quick and painless.
  • When shopping online, never submit your social security number, your mother's maiden name or any other secret question/secret answer-related information that credit card companies use to verify your identity. A legitimate online retailer will never ask you for your social security number, your mother's maiden name, the name of your first grade teacher or the name of your favorite pet.
  • Purchase an anti-virus software package if you don't have one already, and consider installing an anti-spyware package as well. If you have anti-virus software running on your computer, get into the habit of downloading the latest virus definition files at least 3 times per week, and run a full scan of all your hard drives at least once every week.

    Computer viruses, trojan horses, worms and other types of malware can cause all kinds of headaches, but when it comes to serious security threats, it doesn't get much worse than a keystroke logger (also known as a keylogger.) If your PC isn't protected by anti-virus software, you computer could get infected with a particular type of trojan horse called a malicious keylogger, a program that will record all your keystrokes, save them to a file and send the information to a criminal. If you get infected with a malicious keylogger, a huge chunk of your sensitive information, like credit card numbers, your social security number, the usernames and passwords you use around the Internet, etc. could end up in the hands of the crook who orchestrated the attack. Your private information could then be used to steal you identity, or worse.
  •  Never initiate any online shopping by responding to a spam email message. Bottom line: legitimate online retailers don't send out unsolicited mail. Besides, if you respond to a spam email message, you are supporting the spammers, and you don't want to do that!
  • If you want to purchase an item from a website, but you're not 100% confident about the site's trustworthiness, then search Yahoo!, BING and Google to see if you can find any reports of security issues, bad conduct or poor customer support.

Should you be nervous about submitting your credit card information over the Internet? No, you shouldn't. Just remember to use common sense and observe best practices before whipping out that credit card.

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