back to article Why embossed credit cards are here to stay

Embossed numbers on credit cards are here to stay, and probably for a very long time, say the big three credit card issuers. The raised numbering on credit cards may seem anachronistic given that EMV chips are increasingly being adopted around the world, while magnetic strip cards have been with us for decades. The long …

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  1. Bruce Hoult

    Here for a while yet

    I'm an instructor at a gliding club in New Zealand. We do about 50 credit card transactions a month for trial flights worth on average around £100 each. In the last five years we've gotten internet (and electricity!) in our clubhouse, but at this transaction level online authorization machine rental plus transaction fees would cost us far more than the fees for our old zip-zap machine. We get a considerable reduction in fees by phoning in each transaction to get an authorisation number, so it is pretty much as safe for the card issuer as an electronic transaction would be.

    The situation may well be different for organisations with a lower average transaction value.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never use credit cards.

    I realize I'm supposed to be in perpetual debt to my bank but I'm not doing it, therefore I don't use credit cards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never use credit cards.

      I use it only as a convenience. I pay off the total balance every month, so never pay any interest charge. The annual fee is also waived due to the overall volume.

      Yes I could use a Debit Card, but why use my money when I can use somebody else money for a month with no charge (and not risk my own money to a fraudulant transaction)?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Never use credit cards.

        Exactly right!

        In the UK simply using a credit card gives you the protection of the consumer credit act and a big bank that wants to keep its reputation and business.

        Reversing a fraudulent credit card transaction is easy, and you won't be out of pocket during the process.

        With debit card transactions it takes a while to get the money back, and you may end up overdrawn or worse before discovering the fraud.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Never use credit cards.

          <blockquote>Reversing a fraudulent credit card transaction is easy, and you won't be out of pocket during the process.<blockquote>

          Uh huh. Don't think I'll bother chancing it, ta.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Never use credit cards.

            Avoid 'chancing it' if you like, it won't make you any less misguided though.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Never use credit cards.

        Isn't "I only use it for convenience" the same as "I use one"?

        Convenience is half the con, why are private companies being allowed to issue currency?

        Why in the last 10 years have more people not woken up to the fact that a bear trap with honey pie in it is still going to break your leg?

        -going for the honey pie because they stuck it 2 foot closer than your fridge isn't an excuse.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Never use credit cards.

          I've got a spare tin-foil hat you can have if you like? It will stop anyone reading you mind to know which floorboard you hid the cash underneath.

          1. SYNTAX__ERROR
            Go

            Re: Never use credit cards.

            Section 75 protection is also quite valuable, which is why Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert recommends that any purchases > £100 are made at least partially on a credit card.

            That way if anything goes wrong with the sale or subsequently with the product, you are in a better position as the card issuer is jointly liable with the merchant.

            See link for more info

            http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/section75-protect-your-purchases

        2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Never use credit cards.

          "why are private companies being allowed to issue currency?"

          Guess you don't use stamps, then. Or collect coupons, or use cheques. They're all currency by any reasonable definition of the term - people still use stamps as a reserve currency and for payment. Coupons are self-explanatory.

          Cheques are particularly interesting. They're essentially the same as a promissory note and have the same origin as paper money, in credit notes issued by a bank, being a promise to pay the bearer on demand, except issued by a private individual rather than a private corporation.

          And of course you must not use any currency valued greater than £1 at any time, as all the paper money in the UK is issued by private companies. The Bank of England is not a government institution and never has been. The banks that issue notes in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also not government institutions and never have been. The government may create fiat money out of thin air these days but all it's actually doing is legislatively requiring the private company of the Bank of England to issue to issue currency that didn't previously exist.

          And all contemporary currency, even the shrapnel tinkling away in your pocket, ultimately began as currency issued by a private company.

          So. Why are you spending currency issued by a private company if you're so against it?

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Never use credit cards.

      When they say "Credit cards", I think that they mean "Plastic payment cards" however the money is taken from you (credit / debit, etc.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @BristolBachelor

        Nope, the Consumer Credit Acts are very clear on that one.... Credit Cards, not Debit Cards.

        1. stucs201

          Re: @BristolBachelor

          by 'they' I think he meant the people talking about embossed numbers, not those talking about credit card protection....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @stucs201

            Clearly he didn't if you read the preceding posts :P

            They are talking about protection under the Consumer Credit Act, which only applies if you actually pay via credit systems. It's very clear. Actually in black and white.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never use credit cards.

      I got into trouble with CCs many moons back, got out of it and made do without a CC for 10 years. Then my company wanted me to travel and claim back so I had to get one. This time around I learned my lesson and everything that goes on the card is cleared off within the month. When I am in the country the card stays locked in the wallsafe, out of the reach of temptation and anything I buy is with debit cards or cash.

      Easy enough to laugh at the people on the TV ads at running up bills and debts, no laughing matter when you find you've been so utterly stupid as to become another statistic. I learned the hard way when times were good and I was able to get work to clear it on my own with one loan from a bank. Now I preach to my kids endlessly to never borrow money from anyone for anything other than a car or a house!

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Never use credit cards.

        "never borrow money from anyone for anything other than a car or a house!"

        Why borrow for a car? It's a depreciating asset. A house of course, is as safe as, well, you know...

        (disclaimer: not counting the property bubble. Buy after it's burst, not before)

        Yep, the one with the bus ticket in the pocket.

    4. Trokair 1
      Pint

      Re: Never use credit cards.

      I was the same way for a long time. Wouldn't touch a credit card. Then I realized that as long as I pay it off every month then my credit rating goes up and my interest rates go down so I keep more money on other purchases. Plus I get 1% cash back as reward points. Just make sure that you get a card that doesn't have a fee (90% of them do). I'm getting "free" money in points, it is convenient, and I'm covered several ways from misuse.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Get wise

      I never use ANY of my 4 credit cards for actual "credit". Each one gives me a different combination of points, rewards, or other benefits for different transactions, and so I just them in place of cash wherever possible. I make a few hundred a year this way - and NEVER pay a single penny in fees or interest! And rarely visit cash machines too ;-)

    6. Filippo

      Re: Never use credit cards.

      I've never used any credit card for actual credit, and I doubt I ever will. It's just a handy way to pay for stuff over the Internet with the knowledge that I'll have a few months to rever the transaction if something goes wrong. I'm always astonished when I hear that people get in debt through credit cards, by using them to live above their means. That's so unbelievably stupid.

  3. Andrew Woodvine

    Click clack card readers

    Click card readers remind me of my student days. The local curry house used one of these, which meant I could always get a curry washed down with a few beers, even when over my overdraft limit.

    1. mike2R
      Happy

      Re: Click clack card readers

      Heh, my local supermarket processed debit cards electronically but whatever method they used didn't actually check your bank account. Oh and they did cashback.

      Was about 5 years after I graduated before my bank let me have a proper debit card again...

  4. AndrueC Silver badge
    Joke

    So what's the next article going to be? 'Why pens are here to stay.'. Or perhaps a bit more contentious 'Do we really need pencils?'. You could of course go for the popular vote and try 'Chalk and slate - their glory days are over'.

    :D

  5. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    It doesn't fix the basic problem..

    Even with a mechanical pay slip you still have the problem of stolen credit cards - if you want to leave prevent fraud you should combine that with a picture of the actual card owner or you might as well not bother. As a result of the lack of online feedback, merchants with mechanical payslips will prove a route to still draw funds from a card that has already been blocked.

    The second problem with mechanical payslips is over-limit spending - an online transaction does an account check, a mechanical one doesn't. I actually have no idea how this gets handled - does the merchant get reimbursed anyway?

    The current credit card concept is *horribly* broken..

    1. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: It doesn't fix the basic problem..

      "if you want to leave prevent fraud you should combine that with a picture of the actual card owner or you might as well not bother."

      The credit card I got 10 years ago had my photo on it. The technology is there, but the UK banks don't seem to want to bother.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: It doesn't fix the basic problem..

        I had one of those once.

        In all the times I used it, only one merchant ever looked at the picture[1]. He studied the miniscule picture for a minute through glasses like milk-bottle bottoms and eventually declared that it might be me, but then again it might be just about anybody.

        Maybe that's why they never took off?

        [1] Well, only one for validation purposes. Loads of 'em caught sight and went "Ooo, it's got a picture on it. Who is it?".....

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: It doesn't fix the basic problem..

        They make more money selling credit-card insurance than they do through fraud.

        Recently. in America I noticed a few people had written "ask for id" on the signature strip. Staff never blinked so I assume they're used to it. I thought it was a pragmatic approach to the problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It doesn't fix the basic problem..

          And when I worked in retail and we queried the banks as to whether it was valid to do this as opposed to a signature we were told it wasn't and to retain the card.

          Rather rained on quite a few peoples parade that one! Signature on the strip has to match signature on the card, and the signature held by the bank, otherwise the shop gets a bollocking if there's an issue.

          Quite a few stores in the US ask for ID with any major card purchase which seems far more sensible.

      3. Kristian Walsh

        Re: It doesn't fix the basic problem..

        Photos are no good, when you consider how little time a merchant has your card for. It's in their hands for less than 5 seconds for a Chip+PIN transaction, and it's not in their hands at all when the PIN terminal is presented to the customer directly.

        In early trials of Photo ID cards in the USA, where merchants were informed of the trial and told to check photos on the cards, the control group participants had nearly every transaction accepted despite using a card that had a picture of a gorilla in the box marked "CARDHOLDER PHOTO".

        Signatures aren't so hot either. I have a friend who, when he got a new card years ago, decided to sign every docket "not me" (not the sig on the card), to see how long he could go before someone challenged him (he himself works in a business that is pretty much 100% card payments, and so he keeps an eye on these things). When he was eventually challenged for the first time by a sales assistant, she turned out to be a trainee, who'd just started her job. This was four months later.

        1. JimC

          Signatures/ It doesn't fix the basic problem..

          Banks haven't checked signatures in decades. It must be thirty years ago that a kid came into our shop with the cheque from his father to buy a new motorcycle (so reasonably serious money). We didn''t ask for a card: what point. Instead we insisted on waiting for it to clear, which it did . Two months later teh aggrieved father came to see us. The kid had stolen the cheque (messy divorce going on). The signature the kid had put on the card bore not the slightest resemblance to the father's but the bank had cleared it anyway.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Signatures/ It doesn't fix the basic problem..

            @JimC - Banks check signatures in the event that there is a query on the transaction, and also randomly, I believe. I designed a system for storing bitmaps signatures for a large UK bank, which had far higher access requirements than just checking for queried transactions.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Signatures/ It doesn't fix the basic problem..

              I had been signing cheques as sole signatory on an account for 25 years before the bank bounced a cheque and said they did not have a record of my signature. Seems they only check if the amount was over £10,000

              1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: Signatures/ It doesn't fix the basic problem..

                The_Noble_Rot - Apparently, this is precisely why con-men who cash fraudulent cheques prefer to write a larger number of cheques for smaller amounts, as they slip under the radar.

        2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Coat

          More evidence that gorillas have excellent camoflage

          "a card that had a picture of a gorilla in the box"

          file with that ball-throwing video.

          The military should stop researching those invisibility huts and just put gorilla suits on its tanks.

      4. John 78

        Re: It doesn't fix the basic problem..

        > but the UK banks don't seem to want to bother.

        They calculated It would cost more to implement, than what they actualy loose through fraud.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: It doesn't fix the basic problem..

      The basic problem is that banks can always claw back fraud losses from their customers and/or their merchants.

      1. SYNTAX__ERROR
        Happy

        Re: It doesn't fix the basic problem..

        In cases where fraudulent use is not the direct result of negligence by the card holder, he/she is normally indemnified against any losses.

  6. edge_e
    Headmaster

    A lack of proof reading?

    “The genius of our system is global interoperability,” said David Masters, MasterCard's Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Affairs, who points out that merchants in developing nations may lack reliable access – or sometimes any access - to online transaction processing facilities.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: A lack of proof reading?

      Then you'll be wanting this link here then from the bottom of the article: Send corrections

      But otherwise yes; it has got a bit worse lately. I blame the 24 hour licensing laws myself :)

      1. edge_e
        Facepalm

        Re: A lack of proof reading?

        Fair, I've never actually noticed that link before

        1. SYNTAX__ERROR
          Stop

          Re: "Send Corrections"

          There's no point.

          You see, what that link doesn't tell you is the destination for said corrections. Which can reasonably be assumed from observed evidence to be a black hole.

  7. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Not everywhere

    For example, the plastic cards issued in Spain don't have embossed numbers, and haven't for a long time. Payments have been electronic only since before the chip.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: Not everywhere

      Maybe that's why the countries debt is so out of control then....

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Re: Not everywhere

        Well played, sir. I missed that or I'd have replied myself.

    2. Daniel B.

      Re: Not everywhere

      Even the credit cards? A lot of bankcards over here don't have embossed numbers (Mexico) but most of the credit cards do have the embossed numbers.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not everywhere

      "For example, the plastic cards issued in Spain don't have embossed numbers, and haven't for a long time. Payments have been electronic only since before the chip."

      Well, my Spanish card has embossed numbers, despite being Spanish. But all transactions do seem to be electronic - if the terminal is broken (frequent) or the shop has lost it (also frequent) so that they can't do a C&P transaction, either the till's stripe-reader gets the card number (not so frequent - sripe readers are often broken) or the card number gets typed into the till; whichever way the till gets the number, it asks for an authorisation - if it gets it, the till prints a slip for me to sign plus a copy for me to keep. Of course places that don't know me want to see photo-id if they can't do a C&P transaction, which is eminently sensible. If the telephone or internet link from the till to the bank is down - can't have an online transaction then - I'm not sure what would happen if it was somewhere I wasn't known (the two times it's happened have been in places I'm known, and in both it's been make a note of it and have me pay next time I'm in).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cynical? Me?

    “The genius of our system is global interoperability,”

    People in every country of the world can rip you off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cynical? Me?

      I'm getting a bit fed up with the "Cynical me?" comments: Cynicism is only a virtue if it's not a paranoid "everyone is out to get me/everyone lies/trust no-one/take nothing at face value" type of cynicism. Which is what seems to be the case here, more often than not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cynical? Me?

        I never claimed it as a virtue but I would add that it's almost invariably the 'legacy' and 'global interoperability' features are the details sold on or used in other countries that don't have the more modern security of things like Chip and Pin for transactions or in online transactions.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm getting a bit fed up

        Cynicism such as you describe wouldn't be so widespread if it wasn't a valid worldview. 40+ years of life experience has taught me that the vast majority of human beings are either greedy self-serving scum or brainwashed herd-following morons, or both; that's why I'm as cynical as I am.

  9. richard?
    Facepalm

    Please, use a different colour!

    I see no reason to remove the embossed numbers, but could they at least use a contrasting colour on them, not silver or gold that means you have to tilt the card backwards and forwards to read the number???

    1. JimmyPage

      Re: Please, use a different colour!

      I suspect that's a subtle security feature, to stop people easily reading the number from a distance ...

    2. Tom 260

      Re: Please, use a different colour!

      It's more an annoyance that it wears off so easily, within a year several numbers can be unreadable (bar tilting to get the shadows), flat numbers under a clear coat would be fine and durable.

      1. Jason 24

        But...

        No good to a click clack reader if they're flat

    3. John 62

      Re: Please, use a different colour!

      the paint wears off anyway

  10. b166er
    Joke

    re blackspots, surely the reader could store the details until it found itself in a whitespot? again and then complete the transaction.

    Essentially what the guy would be doing with the click-clack, but without the fuss.

    Totally makes sense in backwater locations though, such as New Zealand :D

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: storing the details

      Joke or not, this might actually be a very bad idea.

      Although the rep chose not to mention it, another scenario is "Credit Card company's system goes tits up for several hours on December 23rd". I'm guessing, but I imagine the company's IT people really don't want "several hours worth" of queued transactions automatically pouring into the system moments after they bring it back up.

    2. kiwimuso
      FAIL

      Joke? Bah! Humbug!

      I'll have you know that the NZ banking system was waaay ahead of a lot of other countries and has been for some time. I couldn't believe the backwardness of the American banking system when I worked there in the late 80's, and ditto for the UK. Used to take ages for cheques to clear through the banking system there whereas NZ has had an electronic clearing system for ages. IIRC about the 70's.

      Oh, is that what you meant when you were talking about backwater locations. America!

      Even the smallest corner store in NZ does has an EFTPOS terminal these days. They would go out of business if they didn't, and they will nearly all also do cash back - assuming there is enough cash in the till.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        It's the Geography!

        Your country's small and therefore pretty easy to wire up. Now try a country as big as the United States with vast rural areas and lots of topography to consider (two mountain ranges, one pretty high, vast plains and a decent desert to the southwest). Unlike in New Zealand (or other tiny and dense countries like say South Korea), it's VERY easy to find yourself in "The Middle of Nowhere", with essentially no civilization for a large radius.

    3. HipposRule
      Unhappy

      Depends how far to the whitespot

      We bought some stuff from a gift shop in Tanzania earlier in the year that didn't have fallback to click-clack and we had to drive about 5 miles with a bloke from the shop to get signal at all...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Systems down

    The "click clack" readers seem to be used in many restaurants when the systems goes down.

    Although I know of one petrol station whose systems went down, had no readers and was still letting people fuel up with no warning creating utter chaos as people had to walk 400 yards up the road to withdraw cash.

    Paris because she can cure any 'flexible friend' problems.

    1. Andus McCoatover
      Joke

      That wouldn't be in the US...

      What Yank would walk 400 yards??? They'd hire a cab...

      1. Steven Roper

        Re: That wouldn't be in the US...

        The other big clue about that not being in the US is the use of the word "petrol" as opposed to "gas"...

  12. jason 7
    Meh

    Still some countries behind the curve.

    I took a pre-paid cash card on holiday to Canada/USA last year which was smooth rather than the usual raised letters.

    3 out of every 4 attempts to use it got odd looks and "is this card for real?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still some countries behind the curve.

      I used one in Australia last November without any issues at all!

      Well, apart from the issue that after a suspiciously short amount of time I didn't have any more money on it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still some countries behind the curve.

      They ask you if a card is for real, but have no problems authing a cheque with an iPhone app. American banking is bizarre.

      1. Andus McCoatover
        Windows

        Re: Still some countries behind the curve.

        Bizzarre? You bet.

        In an Irving, TX, branch, tried to cash a travel(l)ers check(cheque) once.

        Wanted 2 forms of ID. Passport OK, International photocard driving licence wasn't.

        "What's the problem?"

        "Your driving licence isn't acceptable - it's foreign".

        "OK, so's my passport. Plus, if I wasn't foreign, why would I be cashing TRAVELLERS cheques???"

        Had my freshly photoshopped (not really, but could've been) company ID round my neck.

        "Oh, that's OK..."

        Anyone seen the film "Catch me if you can"? They haven't changed much since then.

        Having said that, UK ain't much better. I received some money from them. "Where do we send the cheque to?"

        "No, here's my account number, and IBAN number."

        You're ahead of me. The cheque for some thousands took about 7 weeks for me to receive the money. I was charged 10% for the 'privilege'.

  13. JimmyPage
    Black Helicopters

    Always destroy the carbon copy

    If you ever have a card run through a click-clack reader, make sure you ask for the slip of carbon between the two copies ... there was a well known scam years ago where employees used these to make fraudulent purchases.

    Also, since no shopkeeper ever needs the CV2 number, best to memorise it, and scratch it off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Always destroy the carbon copy

      They use NCR paper these days - or at least the ones we use for backup at work do.

      And there's 4 copies.

      (We use them a lot at work. Our IT dept is pretty useless. Last time the excuse was that a cable had fallen out...)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Always destroy the carbon copy

      re: VCC2 number - if you scratch it off, you reveal the "VOID" text under the signature strip.

  14. John Sturdy
    FAIL

    A minor irritation with the numbers

    Wandering slightly off the main topic: I wish online transaction sites would let you enter the spaces between the groups of digits --- it makes it so much easier to check you've typed it correctly!

    Or are e-shop programmers really incapable of writing code to skip the spaces in the number you've entered?

    1. VinceH

      Re: A minor irritation with the numbers

      I couldn't agree more.

      What's worse is a combination of inconsistency and lack of labelling.

      If the site doesn't say "Keep your filthy spaces off me, you damned dirty serf" I instinctively enter the spaces. And if I'm able to enter the full number with spaces (ie the field isn't limited to 16 characters), I'll carry on... and only find out they didn't want them when the transaction fails.

      Because programming the system to automatically remove them is such a difficult task.

      Or maybe some twat's gone and patented doing that, so everyone else has stopped doing it.

    2. Jess--

      Re: A minor irritation with the numbers

      I write exactly the systems you speak of, however mine will strip anything that isn't a number from the string, this means you can delimit the card number with almost anything you want

      "1234 abc 5678 / 1234 - 5678" would be read as "1234567812345678"

      1. Steven Roper

        Re: A minor irritation with the numbers

        I also do exactly this on my company's websites.

        It's a single line of code, along the lines of:

        $ccpan = preg_replace('/\D/', '', $_POST['ccpan'] );

        So there's really no excuse, and any programmer that doesn't do it is either incompetent or just plain fucking lazy, or both, and should be sacked forthwith.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: A minor irritation with the numbers

          "So there's really no excuse, and any programmer that doesn't do it is either incompetent or just plain fucking lazy, or both, and should be sacked forthwith."

          I have a sneaking suspicion that the problem is that many web sites are constructed by 'web designers' and not programmers at all, and so lack the fundamental knowledge of how to make something adequately resilient.

          Maybe next time I should try entering something along the lines of '; DROP TABLE CREDIT_CARDS; -- in one of the fields...

    3. kiwimuso
      Thumb Up

      Re: A minor irritation with the numbers

      Agreed.

      Ditto for phone numbers.

      Any attempt to put spaces or dashes in is liable to be denied.

      I keep most of my phone numbers in international format, including the + and country code, then no matter where I am I don't have to worry about it. I don;t know if phones are clever enough to realise that when you are in the same country as the country code, and will strip it or whether the phone companies themselves do the job, but either way it works, and so I have a tendency when filling in phone numbers to use the full international number.

      I thought American programmers or functional specifiers were particularly insular as far as foreign formats (expecting all postal codes to be like a ZIP) but at least most were capable of recognising said input without throwing a hissy fit.

  15. Cian Duffy

    I had an emboss taken at a (small regional branch, admittedly) global car hire firm as recently as January; in a location that definitely had internet and phones available - an airport.

    Have a feeling they may have taken the emboss away and run it through a terminal as the payment came through very quickly, not the days to weeks it took when they were common place.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Given that you were at a car hire firm (I believe Americans refer to them as car rental agencies), the embossment in this case was for the sake of a paper trail: proof that the card was physically present when you performed the transaction. Given the nature of the transaction (a car hire/rental), some heightened scrutiny is warranted.

      1. kiwimuso

        Nope!

        It's so that when all your speeding and parking tickets come through on that car, they can charge them all to your card.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Nope!

          If that was a joke, that fell flat since policemen are instructed to use your driver's license when issuing speeding tickets. So it wouldn't matter which car you drove, the fine would still fall to you with no involvement from the agency. As for parking tickets, I believe the car would be traced, determined to be a rental, and proper notifications be made then (the rental company could be contacted to fill in the renter's information). Either the driver is informed by the agency to pay up or the driver does it himself when he finds the citation. Again, the card doesn't have to be involved. And since the car has to be returned, it would be inspected for damage before the final bill is made, so the card isn't a necessity there, either.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those machines still exist?

    I didn't know, and I live in one of those "developing countries."

  17. Geoff Bin In

    click clack

    Hmm... click clack sounds like a Captain Beefheart track.

    Anyway, I remember seeing a transaction on a train, where the man coming round taking bookings for dinner did not have a click clack machine. He had a bunch of slips that had already been impressed with the companies info. When he wanted to impress the customers info, he used an individual portion of jam! He placed the slip over the credit card and rubbed the jam pot over it to take the impression. What a wonderful use of technology.

    1. John 90

      Re: click clack

      Was this train a grey tube that houses people's debts,

      Their very preserves and transactions?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another benefit of embossed numbers is that its a way for cash machines etc to check you are putting the card in the right way

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      eh?

      No, they work just fine with electron type cards which don't have embossed numbers.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      The cash machines around here have a little magnetic sensor that only opens the card slot if you insert a card with a magnetic strip in the right place.

      Oh, and the cash machines read the mag-strip, not the chip. I had to get money from my account when I left my card at home (sitting on my keyboard, having used it to buy something online). The bank guy took a "blank" card, passed it through the mag reader/writer on his desk, then handed it to me. It put it in the machine and money came out instantly...

  19. SJRulez

    Not one mention of the obvious advantage of the raised digits, my nan who's blind is able to feel the digits on the card which allows her to make transactions by phone!!! Remove them and she wont!

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Well, I was wondering

      how blind merchants would get along with a card and a click-clack machine. They can probably manage chip & pin. On the other hand, you could sneak up and just quietly take the merchandise without them knowing, unless they have a specially designed creaky floor like in [You Only Live Twice] (the book anyway).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Well, I was wondering

        A nightingale floor, you mean? That was a real-life concept. Many people who study Japanese architecture have probably read of the nightingale floor.

  20. kain preacher

    see ID

    If you write see ID instead of signing the card the card is not valid. Now I've yet to see a merchant refuse to take a CC that was not signed or has see ID on it. But if some thing goes wrong and the CC finds out that the card did not have a signature on it, the merchant is on the hook.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: see ID

      Anyway I don't get it. Why do you not sign the card? What ID are we talking about?

      I have a small signature; accordingly I sign the card several times, using all the space. Otherwise, it might be possible for someone to remove the signature and write in their own version. But UK commerce is now mostly chip & pin exclusively (or cash), I think, and the signature doesn't come into it.

      You could sign your name and then write "wants you to ask for a photo ID", or something.

    2. Graham Marsden

      Re: see ID

      I run a stall at a market once a month and occasionally I get American customers who haven't bothered to sign their cards because they're so used to handing over their driving licence as proof of ID when they use the card.

      In any case, if I have to use the manual backup eg because my GPRS terminal won't connect, I phone for authorisation on any transaction which is above my "floor limit" (amount which my card processing company sets). This doesn't guarantee payment, but at least it means that, at the time of the call, the card hasn't been reported lost or stolen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: see ID

        We don't leave the card unsigned because we're so used to being asked for ID, we don't bother signing it because nobody ever bothers to check for a signature. I can't remember the last time I was asked for ID when I used a credit card.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed one other obvious reason - embossed cards are just another thing that needs to be forged, making it slightly harder to make fake cards. Yes, I know there are crims out there doing it, but if all you had was a printed face it would be easier to forge.

  22. Daniel B.

    Car Rental

    The last time I rented a car, they used the click-clack machine to make an "open voucher". This is, they clack the card, then use the phone method to pre-authorize a charge (about $700 USD) and store the voucher.

    When I brought back the car 3 days later, they again use the phone to turn the "preauthorized" charge into an actual charge for the real amount (which was $100). Then the amount and auth code is put on the click-clacked voucher along with the amount.

    So the system is sometimes used with the same lifecycle as the electronic POS, but done by phone.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something like a SecureID is the solution

    Even with Chip&Pin, the credit card system is horribly broken. The non-stored CVV number is a slight attempt to repair the problem, but its still broken.

    The cards with a small LCD and keypad are the solution, and are a solution that will work both online and offline with equal effectiveness. There is one element missing, and that is a way for the vendor to communicate to the card, and this can be solved by adding a small photosensor to the card.

    For online transactions, you hold the photosensor on the card up to transaction hotspot on the screen for a few seconds, and by displaying an animated/modulated coloured square, so receive the vendor name and transaction amount to your card. The card displays the vendor name and amount, and you enter your PIN to authorise, receiving a one-time use CVV number in return.

    For offline use, the vendor ID and amount can be entered using the keypad.

    A colour encoded animated GIF, flickering 30 frames per second, with say 4 bits per colour channel, might be able to transmit 360 bits per second. At 60 character vendor name, is around 300 bits, add in 32 bits for the transaction amount, add in another, say, 128 bits for a signature of some kind, and add 25% for error correction, you can transmit the the whole lot in 2 seconds or so. No fancy RF or NFC needed, just a some basic photo diodes and some filters.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Can you do this PASSIVELY?

      Because otherwise the whole concept falls apart when the battery's dead. Most NFC solutions are inductive so rely on the vendor transmitting power to power the process: much more reliable. Your SecureID falls flat at one important aspect: simplicity.

  24. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I've had my credit card spoofed on a number of occasions, none of which caused me to be out of pocket.

    I happen to agree that certain aspects of the credit card system need reviewing and updating, especially in the "going after the bastards" department - I've had at least two instances when I could have led police to the perp's door had I been in the same state, but the CC bank was not interested in doing anything about it. Oh well.

    But in terms of consumer protection, credit cards are pretty far ahead of the pack.

  25. ZenCoder

    Signing the back of the card.

    At my local US post office they will refuse to accept an unsigned credit card until you sign it. They also compare the signature on your credit card to the signature on your ID. Its rare but it does happen.

  26. Don Jefe
    Meh

    Click-Clack

    In 2010 I was director of retail sales (US) for a fairly large sporting goods retailer and one of our larger shows was an outdoor event in Southwest Virginia. We were doing direct sales of about $375k during the three day event. The location made any sort of Internet connection impossible so we had to use a click-clack device to record customers transactions then call them in to the bank later.

    In the U.S. there is no space on the three part click-clack receipt for the CCV so we had to scribble it on the 'Merchant Copy' - which isn't very professional and just looks shady to customers. Right off the bat we were paying a higher rate for processing because we didn't have the card in hand and the processor agent thought it was fishy we needed to call in so many transactions.

    Secondly, we ran out of click-clack compatible receipts during the 2010 event. Try finding them... Our bank was BB&T and I went to three different locations trying to find more receipts. The kids working at the bank had no idea what I was talking about and tried to upsell me on their in-house processing options. Ha!

    There are places in the U.S. without Internet service and there is a use for old school credit card machines. Our banks just don't want to deal with those things though.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Click-Clack

      The BB&T people were probably amazed to find a place where there was no way of performing any form of electronic communication AT ALL: no direct internet, no cell phone service so you can use stuff like Square or GoPayment, not even a telephone line for a dialup modem,.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prepaid != No Overdraw

    "Forcing you to electronically authorise every transaction with a pre-paid card means you'll never be able to overdraw such cards."

    That was true until some (e.g. PrePaid MasterCard) changed their terms and started to charge a yearly fee as well as extra (large) fees for getting cash from ATMs abroad. If you don't top up regularly you can easily to get a payment reminder letter... What was the benefit of pre-paid again?

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