Its been just shy of a year and a half since one of my financial service firms has cancelled one of my credit cards, so I was probably past due. I was able to tank up at the start of a multi-state trip this weekend, but by the time I was ready for a refill, a series of $1 transactions, along with 3 $50 iTunes transactions, triggered a fraud alert, resulting in the disablement of my card.
A pair of new cards arrived at our door today, which is quicker than I was used to the several times this happened when living in England. Surprisingly, this rapid replacement continues the design of a blue magstripe against a blue background, which will lead to another year of clerk confusion.
The biggest personal inconvenience to me is that this screws up my accounting. I’ve got Quicken trained to download transactions whenever I push a button. When a card is cancelled and replaced, it means that some number of the final transactions will not be downloaded. It also means creating yet another account within Quicken, and getting it set up correctly. I never did get the balance straight in last year’s credit card account in Quicken, because I didn’t start downloading transactions until it was too late to get them all. So I decided to start immediately on it this time. No such luck–the bank’s web site allows me to login, but shows I have no compatible accounts. Unsurprisingly, Quicken also comes up with an error message (helpfully telling me not to contact the bank, because it appears to be a server problem). I wonder when I’ll be able to access my data, and I wonder if I’ll remember to do so.
The bigger issue is not whether I’ve got adequate records within Quicken to precisely account for my expenses. Quicken is a minor disappointment, and a waste of an hour or two of time. The real issue here is that we are still being saddled with transaction authentication dinosaurs. It has been over a decade now since I had my first chip & pin card in Europe, but in America, the strongest authentication mechanism for credit cards is a hastily scrabbled signature on a deteriorating pad that’s missing its stylus.
I joke sometimes that American credit cards are using century old technology, but that’s a bit uncharitable. Magnetic tape was invented in 1928, so that confusingly colored stripe on my replacement card is dependent upon technology that is only a bit over 80 years old.
Why are we still saddled with such easily exploitable technology, when so many robust and inexpensive alternatives are available?