Sunday, January 29, 2023

MENU

Keeping your credit cards safe—with your phone!

Earlier this month police were called to a Starbucks in East Lyme, Connecticut. Staff reported a disturbance with two men who were in the coffee shop, trying to buy Starbucks branded merchandise. Evidently the two guys were trying to use a stolen credit card. It wasn’t the first time. They’d used the same card to buy nearly $2,000 worth of Starbucks merch around the region. It begs the question, how can you keep your credit cards safe? The answer may be in your hand right now—your smartphone can help.

From “zip-zaps” to mag strips—and beyond

credit cards safe
“Zip Zap” machine

The credit card industry has come a long way since back in the days when a clerk would put your “charge card” in a card imprinter and copy the information onto a carbon form for processing. These “zip-zap” or “knuckle-buster” imprinters went away when electronic card processing came into being. The magnetic strip on the back of your card transmitted the data. The days of bad guys fishing carbon paper out of dumpsters to use fraudulently were gone. But the mag-strips on credit cards could be read by more advanced bad guys, and used to make phony credit cards. How could card issuers make credit cards safer?

Credit card companies introduced “chip” cards, which contain an integrated circuit. It’s great for the card companies, because it basically eliminates the possibility of making a phony credit card. Then came the roll-out of “contactless” cards. Hold the card within a couple of inches of the card transaction device and all the needed data could be picked up by the device. But the hang-up? Since many transactions don’t require a cardholder signature nor a PIN (personal identification number) for use, a stolen card can mean a lot of crooked transactions—and not just for Starbucks merchandise.

Keep those touchless cards untouchable

credit cards saferHow can you make your touchless credit cards safe? As they say, “There’s an app for that!” It’s all part of what’s called a “mobile wallet.” It is a secure way of storing sensitive data like credit cards on a smartphone. Two major players top the market: Google Pay and Apple Pay, for Android and Apple phones, respectively. If your phone supports one of these apps, you can store your credit card information on the phone. When it’s time to make a purchase, instead of fishing your credit card out of your wallet, you simply move your phone within a couple of inches of the card reader, and presto! Your transaction is complete.

How does this keep your credit cards safe? If your physical cards are lost or stolen, a bad guy can simply complete a touchless transaction by putting the card near the card reader. If your smartphone gets swiped, as long as you use the phone’s “lock” feature, unless they have your phone’s PIN code—or your face or fingerprint—the “mobile wallet” feature can’t be accessed, and your “virtual credit cards” are safe. Additionally, if you do lose your phone, you can use a remote security feature to lock it down, locate it, or even erase the phone’s data.

Still more added security

credit cards safeAn additional line of security built into these apps is this: When you use Apple Pay or Google Pay, your credit card number is not transmitted to the merchant. Instead, the app uses a kind of alias in place of your real card number. For Apple Pay users, it’s a “Device Account Number,” and for Google Pay users it’s a “virtual account number.” If someone inside your seller’s company tried to skim your credit card number for nefarious reasons, they’d be up the creek. The number wouldn’t be usable for anything, other than that one transaction you authorized.

Will it work for you?

Can you keep your credit cards safe using these apps on your phone? Most newer phones have the wherewithal to use them. Keep in mind, if you’re a frequent “forgot to charge my phone” kind of person—you won’t be making any transactions if your phone is out of power. What if your credit cards aren’t already equipped with contactless transaction ability? You’ll need to upgrade, provided the issuer offers it.

##RVT1083b

Advertisement/Affiliate

If you value what you learn from RVtravel.com, would you please consider becoming a voluntary subscriber by pledging your support? Every contribution, no matter how modest, helps us serve you better. Thank youLearn more here.

Facebook Groups you might like
RVing with Dogs
RV Tech Tips
RV Advice
Towing Behind a Motorhome
RVing Over 70
. . . and the official RVtravel.com Facebook page

Winterizing your RV this season? Amazon has a wide choice of RV antifreeze.

Comments

4.7 17 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

30 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Hal
1 month ago

If the current administration’s desire for Crypto money controlled by the Central Bank goes into effect, having your money on a card in a ‘wallet’ won’t stop them from deciding you don’t deserve to buy something or go somewhere.

Paul
1 month ago

I’m fascinated by the level of paranoia represented in the comments. Cash is wonderful for anonymity’s sake but easily stolen and once taken there is no recovery. I had a phone picked out of my pocket, I immediately went online and bricked the phone. I’ve lost a credit card and one call locked it down and I had a replacement the next day. I won’t use a debit card because the protections are dependent on the bank being “good guys” not on a law that limits the loss on a credit card to $50. Contactless transactions and phone wallets do not provide your cc number to the vendor, they just get the money. I am risk averse but based on facts not paranoid dreams.

Dennis Gregory
1 month ago

What about someone next to you in line, “cloning” your phone with software available to do that? Don’t they now have access to your stored credit cards, and the ability to “wave” their own phone over that pay terminal at some merchants?

Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Gregory

They need your pin or fingerprint to use the information or even to access, assuming you took advantage of the security the phone provides.

Scott
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Gregory

The question that seems to not being addressed in this article is…do you trust the safety / integrity of the giants Google or Apple?

John Gregorio
1 month ago

Yes, many of us balance security and privacy vs. convenience.

Contactless readers are becoming more common across the US.

Note your phone has to have an NFC chip to connect to the reader. Some budget phones like Motorola G6, G21, etc. have lagged way behind. (BTW, these two models and similar are no longer getting security updates and should not be used.)

Debit cards and gift cards can also be added to phone wallets. A fellow camper had his debit card number stolen somehow through swiping, maybe a card skimmer.

Getting a replacement card on the road can be challenging. This is the main reason I have shifted to a Google Wallet.

For most cards, you can sign up for text, email, or app alerts each time a charge occurs. 

An alert typically shows up within a couple of minutes, if not seconds. It is a great way to keep an eye out for fraudulent transactions.

Lee
1 month ago

What if you don’t have cell service? Then what happens.

John Gregorio
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee

Google Pay requires an active Internet connection when making a purchase. It also requires an active Internet connection when adding or removing a payment card and to download transaction history. You can connect via a Wi-Fi network or using your mobile data connection.

Mindy
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee

Most of the big box stores (Walmart, Safeway, etc.) have public wifi that you can connect to to perform the transaction.

Rob
1 month ago

One big problem with contactless today, especially in the US is that many merchants don’t support it. Canada is way ahead of the US in this regard.

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Great information! Thank you! I had incomplete knowledge of Google pay. This fills all my knowledge gaps. Thank you!

Rebecca
1 month ago

No matter what you do, the key is to check your cc statement every month. Most have fraud protection. Only been ripped off once in 25+ years, and that was when someone lifted a physical card from my husband’s wallet. It was especially galling because they bought stuff we never could have afforded! Bank dismissed all fraudulent charges.

Diane Mc
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebecca

Rarely look at my statements as they are only monthly and use paperless. Have alerts set on all my credit cards so every time there is a charge I’m immediately alerted via text (can also use email). I have a small limit, so anything over $50. You can set less or more. If I need any info I use the app for the specific credit card. Also use the wallet feature on my iPhone to pay for in store purchases where available. Convenient and like the one time use scrambled credit card number to help prevent theft.

BlueDuck
1 month ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Diane, I do as well. But I might suggest having your limit set to $1 is more prudent. Why? Many times a stolen cc will be hit for $1 to see if the card is valid. Then the number is sold. I’ve had this happen twice to me. Once while in South Africa and one here in the USA right the day before we were leaving on an international trip. On the latter, we shut down the card and took a backup card on the trip.

Diane Mc
1 month ago
Reply to  BlueDuck

Good idea. Thank you.

Crowman
1 month ago

With a credit card stolen from you there’s one person fraudulently using it. With electronic payment you open up to the world to steal you money. Use cash it still works for most transactions.

Dennis Gregory
1 month ago
Reply to  Crowman

Totally agree, Crowman!

Larry
1 month ago

I use my iWatch. Don’t have to take iPhone or wallet out of my pocket and possibly forget and leave it on the counter. If Google or Apple want to track me, they can knock themselves out,. I have nothing to hide.

Dan
1 month ago

Just what I always wanted, another way for someone like Google or Apple to follow me around and track how I spend my money. Old school cash is looking better every day. Yes, I know, many places require a card to share your money with them, but that don’t mean I gotta like it.

wanderer
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan

Yes. Sick of being coerced into running every transaction of life through these giant monopoly/duopoly corporations, subject to constant surveillance. For what? So they can sell your data to companies that want to sell you burial insurance or whatever. I’ll opt out as long as I can.

Ray Leissner
1 month ago

“What if your credit cards aren’t already equipped with contactless transaction ability? You’ll need to upgrade, provided the issuer offers it.” I was just wondering if you could request a card without contactless transaction ability. Talk about lazy. Seems to me that little extra bit of accessibility is exactly what the crook needs in order to rob the public as a whole without possessing the card. Plus why can’t these card manufacturers incorporate an alias card number for one-off transactions to prevent in-house skimming? like the phone app does. Putting your data on your phone, in addition to your wallet, is a solution? Yea, that’s the ticket. Putting your card data on your phone in addition to your wallet always helps. Making it easy to use without holding it and putting it in more and more places than absolutely necessary always makes it more secure. At least if they had to physically steal it in order to use it, you would eventually notice it missing.

Impavid
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray Leissner

The information I’ve learned is most, if not all, cc companies can remove the contactless feature from your card. Give them a call. Phone number is on the back of the card.

Bob p
1 month ago

Security…Hah! At least when credit cards used the magnetic strip the thief had to physically have your card in their hand. With the new technology all it takes is a code scanner within a couple of feet of you to read your card and get everything off the card. Then take the info it scanned and use it to buy whatever. Don’t believe me, check it out, you better be carrying you cards inside a wallet with RFID protection. Or wrap them in aluminum foil.

Snoopy
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Sounds like when you had to wear aluminum foil hats to protect you from aliens entering your mind & taking all your information!
HA Ha
Snoopy

Impavid
1 month ago
Reply to  Snoopy

You mean you don’t need to wear those hats anymore? Phew, good news as I was getting a lot of funny looks.

Diane Mc
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

I have a purse/wallet with RFID.

Ceil
1 month ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Me too.

Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Missed point of article: if in digital wallet in phone, the physical cards can be stashed at home and not carried at all. Just the “wallet” on the phone (& Apple iWatch if you have that).

The only place I use a physical card now: WalMart as they refuse to both Apple and Google pay systems; trying to force you in to their own private system.

Trey Scudder
1 month ago

Were I a thief, I would have opted to risk incarceration at a fancier joint than a Starbucks.
As the world edges closer to a cashless society, we also slowly give up our freedom as institutions and banks will have absolute control over the money supply. Did your grandson mow your neighbor’s lawn last week? Was he taxed for it? Did you sell that old freezer last month? Did you pay your taxes? Did you cousin need a family loan to deal with a rough situation? Did he pay his taxes? Did you buy a bottle of Jim Beam last weekend? Wasn’t that your third bottle in two months? Also, consider this… if someone is not in “good” standing, their financials can be locked down and they will not have access to any money. The issue lies in determining what is “good” and by whom. Beware the slow transition to a social credit system residing on your phone in which all financial transactions and physical movement will be controlled. I’m not ready for a cashless society just yet.

KellyR
1 month ago
Reply to  Trey Scudder

Trey, you have said all I can think to say. The fear of the gov’t being Big Brother did not come around. It has become the people we rely upon for our goods and services that want to track our every move. I fear them more than the IRS.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Every Saturday and Sunday morning. Serving RVers for more than 20 years.