Fight for the Swipe: Credit Card Technology That Might Not Be Such a Good Thing

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Woman swiping card through credit card reading machineIt's a ritual that most Americans are familiar with. When are you ready to check out from the store or pay your bill at the restaurant, you hand over your card and swipe it through a magnetic card reader. Then, depending on the store policies, you might sign the receipt or show the cashier your ID. That swipe and sign ritual might soon be a thing of the past. In ten years, you may be saying to your kids "When I was YOUR age I had to physically take my credit card out of my wallet and swipe it before I can buy anything!" What's causing this sea change in credit card technology? Card companies are implementing new, "blink, or contactless technology" that will offer consumers more convenience, but may also expose consumers to higher risk of unauthorized credit card usage.

Blink credit cards are embedded with a radio-frequency identification microchip instead of a magnetic strip. The cards debuted a few years ago, but has not been widely introduced until now. The chip will allow a card to be read by a blink terminal. Simply wave the card in front of a terminal, and the machine can access your name and account number to record the purchase. Then you can be on your way with your bag of groceries or new pair of pants - no swiping, no signing, no checking ID needed.

Unfortunately, this added convenience may come at a cost. Consumers and security experts have voiced concern that the ease of use can translate into ease of abuse by identity thieves. The worry is that identity thieves can swipe the information from your card without your knowledge, by intercepting the signal with a card-reading device. In response, new products such as a card shield sleeve have popped up to address this fear. The sleeve shield will protect your card from skimmers until you have taken the card out of the sleeve. Credit card companies also say that they have encryption technology that will prevent thieves from easily accessing the readable card data.

I'm all for convenience, and I love my credit cards - the reward points are what allows me to indulge in Sephora lotions, Starbucks lattes, and Barnes & Noble hardcovers without forking over my own cash. But might this new, contactless, way of using credit card make it just a bit too convenient to spend? Still, when credit card were first introduced, there was an uproar on the idea of paying on credit. You cannot stop progress - experts estimate that within 5 years, most cards will be blink cards and the magnetic strip will be gone for good. New technology will hopefully protect readable cards from thieves. But the only thing we can depend on to protect ourselves from overspending is self-discipline, something even the newest technology cannot supply.

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