There’s something wrong with this picture

July 25, 2011

My blog yesterday got me thinking of how businesses are catering to the consumers’ desire for “convenience.” This is not necessarily a good thing, especially with regards to financial institutions.

Just a year or two ago, whenever I wanted to use a credit card, I had to show picture identification. I’m not sure why or how this came about. But it was rather inconvenient and unnecessary. After all, my signature is on my credit card and I used a PIN to authorize the transaction. Why do I need to show picture identification on top of all that?

That didn’t last too long, fortunately. Instead, now when I use my credit card, it’s even easier than it was before! I have one credit card that is a “Pay Pass.” With that credit card, I don’t have to use my chip or even sign a transaction slip. The business simply waves my card in front of their machine and the transaction is complete.

This means that, if my card were ever stolen or lost, someone could spend quite a bit of money before I even noticed it was gone. They don’t have to try to copy my signature. They don’t have to try to figure out my PIN. They just simply wave that card in front of a pay pass machine, and carry on their way.

For this credit card, I do need a complicated password to access the account online. I also need a “site key,” a picture that I have chosen and that is connected to my username. And I need a PIN according to their format. But to actually use the card, all I have to do is wave it around in the air. Now who is being inconvenienced?

At some businesses, grocery stores in particular, if the purchase is below a certain amount, I don’t have to use my PIN or sign a transaction slip. This is even when I use a regular credit card, not just my Pay Pass one. This means that should any of my credit cards get stolen, someone could spend just under $50 at most grocery stores, and they don’t have to show anything but the credit card. The businesses have taken all the pleasure away from thieves who get a kick out of trying to crack the PIN codes.

Again, with these same credit cards, I have a complicated password, and a few sets of questions and answers that I have to use in order to access my online account. I also have PIN’s for each one, according to the formatting required by that institution. But to actually use the card, all I have to do is ensure it is under the required amount set by the business I’m purchasing from.

It’s great for someone that it is easier than ever for me to use my credit cards. That someone isn’t me though. I think I’d rather go back to making the use of my credit cards more complicated than accessing my online accounts.

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