A credit card is a small plastic card issued to users as a system of payment. It allows its holder to buy goods and services based on the holder's promise to pay for these goods and services. The issuer of the card creates a revolving account and grants a line of credit to the consumer (or the user) from which the user can borrow money for payment to a merchant or as a cash advance to the user (Dell XPS M1210 Battery) .
A credit card is different from a charge card: a charge card requires the balance to be paid in full each month. In contrast, credit cards allow the consumers a continuing balance of debt, subject to interest being charged. Most credit cards are issued by banks or credit unions, and are the shape and size specified by the ISO/IEC 7810standard as ID-1. This is defined as 85.60 × 53.98 mm (3.370 × 2.125 in) (33/8 × 21/8 in) in size (Dell Studio XPS 1340 Battery) .
The concept of using a card for purchases was described in 1887 by Edward Bellamy in his utopian novel Looking Backward. Bellamy used the term credit card eleven times in this novel.
The modern credit card was the successor of a variety of merchant credit schemes. It was first used in the 1920s, in the United States, specifically to sellfuel to a growing number of automobile owners (Dell Studio XPS 1640 Battery) .
In 1938 several companies started to accept each other's cards. Western Union had begun issuing charge cards to its frequent customers in 1921. Some charge cards were printed on paper card stock, but were easily counterfeited.
The Charga-Plate was an early predecessor to the credit card and used in the U.S. from the 1930s to the late 1950s. It was a 2½" × 1¼" rectangle of sheet metal, similar to a military dog tag, and embossed with the customer's name, city and state (Dell Vostro 1710 Battery) .
It held a small paper card for a signature. In recording a purchase, the plate was laid into a recess in the imprinter, with a paper "charge slip" positioned on top of it. The record of the transaction included an impression of the embossed information, made by the imprinter pressing an inked ribbon against the charge slip.Charga-Plate was a trademark of Farrington Manufacturing Co (Sony VGP-BPS13 battery) .
Charga-Plates were issued by large-scale merchants to their regular customers, much like department store credit cards of today. In some cases, the plates were kept in the issuing store rather than held by customers. When an authorized user made a purchase, a clerk retrieved the plate from the store's files and then processed the purchase. Charga-Plates speeded back-office bookkeeping that was done manually in paper ledgers in each store, before computers (Sony VGP-BPL9 battery) .
The concept of customers paying different merchants using the same card was implemented in 1950 by Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara, founders ofDiners Club, to consolidate multiple cards. The Diners Club, which was created partially through a merger with Dine and Sign, produced the first "general purpose" charge card, and required the entire bill to be paid with each statement (Sony VGP-BPL11 battery) .
That was followed by Carte Blanche and in 1958 by American Expresswhich created a worldwide credit card network (although these were initially charge cards that acquired credit card features after BankAmericard demonstrated the feasibility of the concept).
However, until 1958, no one had been able to create a working revolving credit financial instrument issued by a third-party bank that was generally accepted by a large number of merchants (as opposed to merchant-issued revolving cards accepted by only a few merchants) (Sony VGP-BPL15 battery) .
A dozen experiments by small American banks had been attempted (and had failed). In September 1958, Bank of America launched the BankAmericard in Fresno, California. BankAmericard became the first successful recognizably modern credit card (although it underwent a troubled gestation during which its creator resigned), and with its overseas affiliates, eventually evolved into the Visa system (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery) .
In 1966, the ancestor of MasterCard was born when a group of California banks established Master Charge to compete with BankAmericard; it received a significant boost when Citibank merged its proprietary Everything Card (launched in 1967) into Master Charge in 1969.
Early credit cards in the U.S., of which BankAmericard was the most prominent example, were mass produced and mass mailed to bank customers who were thought to be good credit risks; that is, they were unsolicited (Dell Latitude E6400 battery) .
These mass mailings were known as "drops" in banking terminology, and were outlawed in 1970 due to the financial chaos that they caused, but not before 100 million credit cards had been dropped into the U.S. population. After 1970, only credit card applications could be sent unsolicited in mass mailings (HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery) .
The fractured nature of the U.S. banking system under the Glass-Steagall Act meant that credit cards became an effective way for those who were traveling around the country to move their credit to places where they could not directly use their banking facilities. In 1966 Barclaycard in the UK launched the first credit card outside of the U.S (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery) .
There are now countless variations on the basic concept of revolving credit for individuals (as issued by banks and honored by a network of financial institutions), including organization-branded credit cards, corporate-user credit cards, store cards and so on.
Although credit cards reached very high adoption levels in the US, Canada and the UK in the mid twentieth century, many cultures were more cash-oriented, or developed alternative forms of cash-less payments, such as Carte bleue or the Eurocard (Germany, France, Switzerland, and others) (Sony VGN-FZ31S battery) .
In these places, adoption of credit cards was initially much slower. It took until the 1990s to reach anything like the percentage market-penetration levels achieved in the US, Canada, or UK. In some countries, acceptance still remains poor as the use of a credit card system depends on the banking system being perceived as reliable (Hp pavilion dv6000 battery) .
Japan remains a very cash oriented society, with credit card adoption being limited to only the largest of merchants, although an alternative system based on RFIDs inside cellphones has seen some acceptance. Because of strict regulations regarding banking system overdrafts, some countries, France in particular, were much faster to develop and adopt chip-based credit cards which are now seen as major anti-fraud credit devices (SONY VGN-FZ38M Battery) .
Debit cards and online banking are used more widely than credit cards in some countries.
The design of the credit card itself has become a major selling point in recent years. The value of the card to the issuer is often related to the customer's usage of the card, or to the customer's financial worth. This has led to the rise of Co-Brand and Affinity cards - where the card design is related to the "affinity" (a university or professional society, for example) leading to higher card usage (SONY VGN-FZ31z Battery) .
In most cases a percentage of the value of the card is returned to the affinity group.
Collectible credit cards
A growing field of numismatics (study of money), or more specifically exonumia (study of money-like objects), credit card collectors seek to collect various embodiments of credit from the now familiar plastic cards to older paper merchant cards, and even metal tokens that were accepted as merchant credit cards. Early credit cards were made of celluloid plastic, then metal and fiber, then paper, and are now mostly plastic (SONY VGN-FZ31E Battery) .
How credit cards work
Credit cards are issued by a credit card issuer, such as a bank or credit union, after an account has been approved by the credit provider, after which cardholders can use it to make purchases atmerchants accepting that card. Merchants often advertise which cards they accept by displaying acceptance marks – generally derived from logos – or may communicate this orally, as in "Credit cards are fine" (implicitly meaning "major brands"), "We take (brands X, Y, and Z)", or "We don't take credit cards" (SONY VGN-FZ31J Battery) .
When a purchase is made, the credit card user agrees to pay the card issuer. The cardholder indicates consent to pay by signing a receipt with a record of the card details and indicating the amount to be paid or by entering a personal identification number (PIN). Also, many merchants now accept verbal authorizations via telephone and electronic authorization using the Internet, known as a card not present transaction (CNP) (SONY VGN-FZ31M Battery) .
Electronic verification systems allow merchants to verify in a few seconds that the card is valid and the credit card customer has sufficient credit to cover the purchase, allowing the verification to happen at time of purchase. The verification is performed using a credit card payment terminal or point-of-sale (POS) system with a communications link to the merchant's acquiring bank (SONY VGN-FZ31B Battery) .
Data from the card is obtained from a magnetic stripe or chip on the card; the latter system is called Chip and PIN in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and is implemented as an EMV card.
For card not present transactions where the card is not shown (e.g., e-commerce, mail order, and telephone sales), merchants additionally verify that the customer is in physical possession of the card and is the authorised user by asking for additional information such as the security code printed on the back of the card, date of expiry, and billing address (SONY VGP-BPS13 Battery) .
Each month, the credit card user is sent a statement indicating the purchases undertaken with the card, any outstanding fees, and the total amount owed. After receiving the statement, the cardholder may dispute any charges that he or she thinks are incorrect (see Fair Credit Billing Act for details of the US regulations) (Dell Inspiron 1320 Battery) .
Otherwise, the cardholder must pay a defined minimum proportion of the bill by a due date, or may choose to pay a higher amount up to the entire amount owed. The credit issuer charges interest on the amount owed if the balance is not paid in full (typically at a much higher rate than most other forms of debt). Some financial institutions can arrange for automatic payments to be deducted from the user's bank accounts, thus avoiding late payment altogether as long as the cardholder has sufficient funds (Dell Inspiron 1320n Battery) .
Advertising, solicitation, application and approval
Credit card advertising regulations include the Schumer box disclosure requirements. A large fraction of junk mail consists of credit card offers created from lists provided by the major credit reporting agencies. In the United States, the three major US credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) allow consumers to opt out from related credit card solicitation offers via its Opt Out Pre Screenprogram (Dell Inspiron 1464 Battery) .
Credit card issuers usually waive interest charges if the balance is paid in full each month, but typically will charge full interest on the entire outstanding balance from the date of each purchase if the total balance is not paid.
For example, if a user had a $1,000 transaction and repaid it in full within this grace period, there would be no interest charged (Dell Inspiron 1564 Battery) .
If, however, even $1.00 of the total amount remained unpaid, interest would be charged on the $1,000 from the date of purchase until the payment is received. The precise manner in which interest is charged is usually detailed in a cardholder agreement which may be summarized on the back of the monthly statement. The general calculation formula most financial institutions use to determine the amount of interest to be charged is APR/100 x ADB/365 x number of days revolved (Dell Inspiron 1764 Battery) .
Take the Annual percentage rate (APR) and divide by 100 then multiply to the amount of the average daily balance (ADB) divided by 365 and then take this total and multiply by the total number of days the amount revolved before payment was made on the account. Financial institutions refer to interest charged back to the original time of the transaction and up to the time a payment was made, if not in full, as RRFC or residual retail finance charge (Dell Studio 1450 Battery) .
Thus after an amount has revolved and a payment has been made, the user of the card will still receive interest charges on their statement after paying the next statement in full (in fact the statement may only have a charge for interest that collected up until the date the full balance was paid, i.e. when the balance stopped revolving) (Dell Studio 1457 Battery) .
The credit card may simply serve as a form of revolving credit, or it may become a complicated financial instrument with multiple balance segments each at a different interest rate, possibly with a single umbrella credit limit, or with separate credit limits applicable to the various balance segments. Usually this compartmentalization is the result of special incentive offers from the issuing bank, to encourage balance transfers from cards of other issuers (Dell Latitude D610 Battery) .
In the event that several interest rates apply to various balance segments, payment allocation is generally at the discretion of the issuing bank, and payments will therefore usually be allocated towards the lowest rate balances until paid in full before any money is paid towards higher rate balances. Interest rates can vary considerably from card to card, and the interest rate on a particular card may jump dramatically if the card user is late with a payment on that card or any other credit instrument, or even if the issuing bank decides to raise its revenue (Toshiba NB100 Battery) .
Benefits to customers
The main benefit to each customer is convenience. Compared to debit cards and cheques, a credit card allows small short-term loans to be quickly made to a customer who need not calculate a balance remaining before every transaction, provided the total charges do not exceed the maximum credit line for the card. Credit cards also provide more fraud protection than debit cards. In the UK for example, the bank is jointly liable with the merchant for purchases of defective products over £100 (Toshiba Satellite M65 battery) .
Many credit cards offer rewards and benefits packages, such as offering enhanced product warranties at no cost, free loss/damage coverage on new purchases, and points which may be redeemed for cash, products, or airline tickets. Additionally, carrying a credit card may be a convenience to some customers as it eliminates the need to carry any cash for most purposes (Toshiba Satellite M60 battery) .
Detriments to customers
High interest and bankruptcy
Low introductory credit card rates are limited to a fixed term, usually between 6 and 12 months, after which a higher rate is charged. As all credit cards charge fees and interest, some customers become so indebted to their credit card provider that they are driven to bankruptcy (Dell Latitude D830 Battery) .
Some credit cards often levy a rate of 20 to 30 percent after a payment is missed; in other cases a fixed charge is levied without change to the interest rate. In some cases universal default may apply: the high default rate is applied to a card in good standing by missing a payment on an unrelated account from the same provider. This can lead to a snowball effect in which the consumer is drowned by unexpectedly high interest rates. Further most card holder agreements enable the issuer to arbitrarily raise the interest rate for any reason they see fit (Dell Studio 1735 Battery) .
Inflated pricing for all consumers
Merchants that accept credit cards must pay interchange fees and discount fees on all credit-card transactions.In some cases merchants are barred by their credit agreements from passing these fees directly to credit card customers, or from setting a minimum transaction amount (Dell Latitude D620 Battery) .
The result, at least in the United States, is that merchants may charge all customers (including those who do not use credit cards) higher prices to cover the fees on credit card transactions. In the United States in 2008 credit card companies collected a total of $48 billion in interchange fees, or an average of $427 per family, with an average fee rate of about 2% per transaction (Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Battery) .
A credit card's grace period is the time the customer has to pay the balance before interest is assessed on the outstanding balance. Grace periods vary, but usually range from 20 to 50 days depending on the type of credit card and the issuing bank. Some policies allow for reinstatement after certain conditions are met (Sony VGN-FW11S Battery) .
Usually, if a customer is late paying the balance, finance charges will be calculated and the grace period does not apply. Finance charges incurred depend on the grace period and balance; with most credit cards there is no grace period if there is any outstanding balance from the previous billing cycle or statement (i.e. interest is applied on both the previous balance and new transactions) (Sony VGN-FW11M Battery) .
However, there are some credit cards that will only apply finance charge on the previous or old balance, excluding new transactions.
Benefits to merchants
An example of street markets accepting credit cards. Most simply display theacceptance marks (stylized logos, shown in the upper-left corner of the sign) of all the cards they accept (Dell Studio 1555 battery) .
For merchants, a credit card transaction is often more secure than other forms of payment, such as cheques, because the issuing bank commits to pay the merchant the moment the transaction is authorized, regardless of whether the consumer defaults on the credit card payment (except for legitimate disputes, which are discussed below, and can result in charges back to the merchant) (Dell Latitude E5400 Battery) .
In most cases, cards are even more secure than cash, because they discourage theft by the merchant's employees and reduce the amount of cash on the premises.
Prior to credit cards, each merchant had to evaluate each customer's credit history before extending credit. That task is now performed by the banks which assume the credit risk (Dell Latitude E4200 Battery) .
Credit cards can also aid in securing a sale, especially if the customer does not have enough cash on his or her person or checking account. Extra turnover is generated by the fact that the customer can purchase goods and/or services immediately and is less inhibited by the amount of cash in his or her pocket and the immediate state of his or her bank balance. Much of merchants' marketing is based on this immediacy (Dell Vostro A840 Battery) .
For each purchase, the bank charges the merchant a commission (discount fee) for this service and there may be a certain delay before the agreed payment is received by the merchant. The commission is often a percentage of the transaction amount, plus a fixed fee (interchange rate). In addition, a merchant may be penalized or have their ability to receive payment using that credit card restricted if there are too many cancellations or reversals of charges as a result of disputes (Dell Inspiron 300M Battery) .
Some small merchants require credit purchases to have a minimum amount to compensate for the transaction costs.
In some countries, for example the Nordic countries, banks guarantee payment on stolen cards only if an ID card is checked and the ID card number/civic registration number is written down on the receipt together with the signature. In these countries merchants therefore usually ask for ID (Dell Studio 1737 battery) .
Non-Nordic citizens, who are unlikely to possess a Nordic ID card or driving license, will instead have to show their passport, and the passport number will be written down on the receipt, sometimes together with other information. Some shops use the card's PIN for identification, and in that case showing an ID card is not necessary (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery) .
Costs to merchants
Merchants are charged several fees for the privilege of accepting credit cards. The merchant is usually charged a commission of around 1 to 3 per-cent of the value of each transaction paid for by credit card. The merchant may also pay a variable charge, called an interchange rate, for each transaction (Dell Latitude E6400 battery) .
In some instances of very low-value transactions, use of credit cards will significantly reduce theprofit margin or cause the merchant to lose money on the transaction. Merchants must accept these transactions as part of their costs to retain the right to accept credit card transactions. Merchants with very low average transaction prices or very high average transaction prices are more averse to accepting credit cards (Dell RM791 battery) .
In some cases merchants may charge users a "credit card supplement", either a fixed amount or a percentage, for payment by credit card.This practice is prohibited by the credit card contracts in the United States, although the contracts allow the merchants to give discounts for cash payment (Dell XPS M1530 battery) .
In certain countries, merchants are required to pay the acquiring banks a monthly terminal rental fee if the terminals are provided by the acquiring banks. Merchants can apply to the acquiring banks for waivers of the fees, which the banks usually agree to for merchants with a high volume of sales, but not for smaller ones (Dell XPS M2010 battery) .
- Cardholder: The holder of the card used to make a purchase; the consumer.
- Card-issuing bank: The financial institution or other organization that issued the credit card to the cardholder. This bank bills the consumer for repayment and bears the risk that the card is used fraudulently. American Express and Discover were previously the only card-issuing banks for their respective brands, but as of 2007, this is no longer the case. Cards issued by banks to cardholders in a different country are known as offshore credit cards (Dell Vostro 1000 battery) .
- Merchant: The individual or business accepting credit card payments for products or services sold to the cardholder.
- Acquiring bank: The financial institution accepting payment for the products or services on behalf of the merchant.
- Independent sales organization: Resellers (to merchants) of the services of the acquiring bank.
- Merchant account: This could refer to the acquiring bank or the independent sales organization, but in general is the organization that the merchant deals with (Acer Aspire One battery) .
- Credit Card association: An association of card-issuing banks such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, etc. that set transaction terms for merchants, card-issuing banks, and acquiring banks.
- Transaction network: The system that implements the mechanics of the electronic transactions. May be operated by an independent company, and one company may operate multiple networks (Sony VGP-BPS13A/B Battery) .
- Affinity partner: Some institutions lend their names to an issuer to attract customers that have a strong relationship with that institution, and get paid a fee or a percentage of the balance for each card issued using their name. Examples of typical affinity partners are sports teams, universities, charities, professional organizations, and major retailers (Sony VGP-BPS13B/B Battery) .
The flow of information and money between these parties — always through the card associations — is known as the interchange, and it consists of a few steps.
- Authorization: The cardholder pays for the purchase and the merchant submits the transaction to the acquirer (acquiring bank). The acquirer verifies the credit card number, the transaction type and the amount with the issuer (Card-issuing bank) and reserves that amount of the cardholder's credit limit for the merchant. An authorization will generate an approval code, which the merchant stores with the transaction (Toshiba Satellite P10 Battery) .
- Batching: Authorized transactions are stored in "batches", which are sent to the acquirer. Batches are typically submitted once per day at the end of the business day. If a transaction is not submitted in the batch, the authorization will stay valid for a period determined by the issuer, after which the held amount will be returned back to the cardholder's available credit (see authorization hold) (SONY VGN-FZ210CE Battery) .
- Some transactions may be submitted in the batch without prior authorizations; these are either transactions falling under the merchant's floor limit or ones where the authorization was unsuccessful but the merchant still attempts to force the transaction through. (Such may be the case when the cardholder is not present but owes the merchant additional money, such as extending a hotel stay or car rental (Dell Precision M70 Battery) .
- Clearing and Settlement: The acquirer sends the batch transactions through the credit card association, which debits the issuers for payment and credits the acquirer. Essentially, the issuer pays the acquirer for the transaction.
- Funding: Once the acquirer has been paid, the acquirer pays the merchant. The merchant receives the amount totaling the funds in the batch minus either the "discount rate," "mid-qualified rate", or "non-qualified rate" which are tiers of fees the merchant pays the acquirer for processing the transactions (Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery) .
- Chargebacks: A chargeback is an event in which money in a merchant account is held due to a dispute relating to the transaction. Chargebacks are typically initiated by the cardholder. In the event of a chargeback, the issuer returns the transaction to the acquirer for resolution. The acquirer then forwards the chargeback to the merchant, who must either accept the chargeback or contest it (Toshiba Satellite T4900 Battery) .
- A merchant is responsible for the chargeback only if she has violated the card acceptance procedures as per the merchant agreement with card acquirers.
Secured credit cards
A secured credit card is a type of credit card secured by a deposit account owned by the cardholder. Typically, the cardholder must deposit between 100% and 200% of the total amount of credit desired (Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery) .
Thus if the cardholder puts down $1000, they will be given credit in the range of $500–$1000. In some cases, credit card issuers will offer incentives even on their secured card portfolios. In these cases, the deposit required may be significantly less than the required credit limit, and can be as low as 10% of the desired credit limit. This deposit is held in a special savings account. Credit card issuers offer this because they have noticed that delinquencies were notably reduced when the customer perceives something to lose if the balance is not repaid (Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery) .
The cardholder of a secured credit card is still expected to make regular payments, as with a regular credit card, but should they default on a payment, the card issuer has the option of recovering the cost of the purchases paid to the merchants out of the deposit. The advantage of the secured card for an individual with negative or no credit history is that most companies report regularly to the major credit bureaus. This allows for building of positive credit history (Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery) .
Although the deposit is in the hands of the credit card issuer as security in the event of default by the consumer, the deposit will not be debited simply for missing one or two payments. Usually the deposit is only used as an offset when the account is closed, either at the request of the customer or due to severe delinquency (150 to 180 days). This means that an account which is less than 150 days delinquent will continue to accrue interest and fees, and could result in a balance which is much higher than the actual credit limit on the card (Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery) .
In these cases the total debt may far exceed the original deposit and the cardholder not only forfeits their deposit but is left with an additional debt.
Most of these conditions are usually described in a cardholder agreement which the cardholder signs when their account is opened.
Secured credit cards are an option to allow a person with a poor credit history or no credit history to have a credit card which might not otherwise be available (Dell Latitude XT2 Tablet PC Battery) .
They are often offered as a means of rebuilding one's credit. Fees and service charges for secured credit cards often exceed those charged for ordinary non-secured credit cards, however, for people in certain situations, (for example, after charging off on other credit cards, or people with a long history of delinquency on various forms of debt), secured cards can often be less expensive in total cost than unsecured credit cards, even including the security deposit (Toshiba Portege 335CT Battery) .
Sometimes a credit card will be secured by the equity in the borrower's home.
Prepaid "credit" cards
See also: Stored-value card
A prepaid credit card is not a true credit card, since no credit is offered by the card issuer: the card-holder spends money which has been "stored" via a prior deposit by the card-holder or someone else, such as a parent or employer (Dell Vostro A90 Battery) .
However, it carries a credit-card brand (such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, or JCB) and can be used in similar ways just as though it were a regular credit card.Unlike debit cards, prepaid credit cards do not require a PIN.
After purchasing the card, the cardholder loads the account with any amount of money, up to the predetermined card limit and then uses the card to make purchases the same way as a typical credit card (Toshiba Satellite P15 Battery) .
Prepaid cards can be issued to minors (above 13) since there is no credit line involved. The main advantage over secured credit cards (see above section) is that you are not required to come up with $500 or more to open an account. With prepaid credit cards purchasers not charged any interest but are often charged a purchasing fee plus monthly fees after an arbitrary time period. Many other fees also usually apply to a prepaid card (Toshiba Satellite Pro M10 Battery) .
Prepaid credit cards are sometimes marketed to teenagers for shopping online without having their parents complete the transaction.
Because of the many fees that apply to obtaining and using credit-card-branded prepaid cards, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada describes them as "an expensive way to spend your own money". The agency publishes a booklet entitled Pre-paid Cardswhich explains the advantages and disadvantages of this type of prepaid card (Toshiba Portege 3110 Battery) .
As well as convenient, accessible credit, credit cards offer consumers an easy way to track expenses, which is necessary for both monitoring personal expenditures and the tracking of work-related expenses for taxation and reimbursement purposes. Credit cards are accepted worldwide, and are available with a large variety of credit limits, repayment arrangement, and other perks (such asrewards schemes in which points earned by purchasing goods with the card can be redeemed for further goods and services or credit card cashback) (Toshiba Portege R600 Battery) .
Some countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, limit the amount for which a consumer can be held liable due to fraudulent transactions as a result of a consumer's credit card being lost or stolen.
Security problems and solutions
Main article: Credit card fraud
See also: Wireless identity theft
Credit card security relies on the physical security of the plastic card as well as the privacy of the credit card number (Toshiba Satellite 1900 Battery) .
Therefore, whenever a person other than the card owner has access to the card or its number, security is potentially compromised. Once, merchants would often accept credit card numbers without additional verification for mail order purchases. It's now common practice to only ship to confirmed addresses as a security measure to minimise fraudulent purchases. Some merchants will accept a credit card number for in-store purchases, whereupon access to the number allows easy fraud, but many require the card itself to be present, and require a signature (Toshiba Portege R200 Battery) .
A lost or stolen card can be cancelled, and if this is done quickly, will greatly limit the fraud that can take place in this way. For internet purchases, there is sometimes the same level of security as for mail order (number only) hence requiring only that the fraudster take care about collecting the goods, but often there are additional measures. European banks can require a cardholder's security PIN be entered for in-person purchases with the card (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ21m Battery) .
The PCI DSS is the security standard issued by The PCI SSC (Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council). This data security standard is used by acquiring banks to impose cardholder data security measures upon their merchants.
A smart card, combining credit card anddebit card properties. The 3 by 5 mm security chip embedded in the card is shown enlarged in the inset. The contact pads on the card enable electronic access to the chip (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ18m Battery) .
The low security of the credit card system presents countless opportunities for fraud.This opportunity has created a huge black market in stolen credit card numbers, which are generally used quickly before the cards are reported stolen.
The goal of the credit card companies is not to eliminate fraud, but to "reduce it to manageable levels".
This implies that high-cost low-return fraud prevention measures will not be used if their cost exceeds the potential gains from fraud reduction - as would be expected from organisations whose goal is profit maximisation (Dell Vostro A90 Battery) .
Internet fraud may be by claiming a chargeback which is not justified ("friendly fraud"), or carried out by the use of credit card information which can be stolen in many ways, the simplest being copying information from retailers, either online or offline. Despite efforts to improve security for remote purchases using credit cards, security breaches are usually the result of poor practice by merchants (Dell Vostro A860 Battery) .
For example, a website that safely uses SSL to encrypt card data from a client may then email the data, unencrypted, from the webserver to the merchant; or the merchant may store unencrypted details in a way that allows them to be accessed over the Internet or by a rogue employee; unencrypted card details are always a security risk. Even encryption data may be cracked (Dell Vostro 2510 Battery) .
Controlled Payment Numbers which are used by various banks such as Citibank (Virtual Account Numbers), Discover (Secure Online Account Numbers, Bank of America (Shop Safe), 5 banks using eCarte Bleue and CMB's Virtualis in France, and Swedbank of Sweden's eKort product are another option for protecting against credit card fraud. These are generally one-time use numbers that front one's actual account (debit/credit) number, and are generated as one shops on-line (Dell Vostro 1700 Battery) .
They can be valid for a relatively short time, for the actual amount of the purchase, or for a price limit set by the user. Their use can be limited to one merchant. If the number given to the merchant is compromised, it will be rejected if an attempt is made to use it again.
A similar system of controls can be used on physical cards (Dell Vostro 1400 Battery) .
For example if a consumer has a Chip and PIN (EMV) enabled card the card can be limited so that it be used only at point of sale locations (i.e. restricted from being used on-line) and only in a given territory (i.e. only for use in Canada). This technology provides the option for banks to support many other controls too that can be turned on and off and varied by the credit card owner in real time as circumstances change (i.e., they can change temporal, numerical, geographical and many other parameters on their primary and subsidiary cards) (HP Pavilion DV7 Battery) .
Apart from the obvious benefits of such controls: from a security perspective this means that a customer can have a Chip and PIN card secured for the real world, and limited for use in the home country. In this eventuality a thief stealing the details will be prevented from using these overseas in non chip and pin (EMV) countries. Similarly the real card can be restricted from use on-line so that stolen details will be declined if this tried (HP Pavilion dv9000 battery) .
Then when card users shop online they can use virtual account numbers. In both circumstances an alert system can be built in notifying a user that a fraudulent attempt has been made which breaches their parameters, and can provide data on this in real time. This is the optimal method of security for credit cards, as it provides very high levels of security, control and awareness in the real and virtual world (Dell Vostro 1000 battery) .
Furthermore it requires no changes for merchants at all and is attractive to users, merchants and banks, as it not only detects fraud but prevents it.
Additionally, there are security features present on the physical card itself in order to prevent counterfeiting. For example, most modern credit cards have a watermark that will fluoresce under ultraviolet light (Dell INSPIRON 1525 battery) .
A Visa card has a letter V superimposed over the regular Visa logo and a Mastercard has the letters MC across the front of the card. Older Visa cards have a bald eagle or dove across the front. In the aforementioned cases, the security features are only visible under ultraviolet light and are invisible in normal light. Similar security features are present in paper currency and certain ID cards in the United States, as well (HP Pavilion DV4 Battery) .
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are responsible for prosecuting criminals who engage in credit card fraud in the United States, but they do not have the resources to pursue all criminals. In general, federal officials only prosecute cases exceeding US$5,000. Three improvements to card security have been introduced to the more common credit card networks but none has proven to help reduce credit card fraud so far (Sony VGP-BPS13/B battery) .
First, the on-line verification system used by merchants is being enhanced to require a 4 digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) known only to the card holder. Second, the cards themselves are being replaced with similar-looking tamper-resistant smart cards which are intended to make forgery more difficult. The majority of smart card (IC card) based credit cards comply with the EMV (Europay MasterCard Visa) standard (Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery) .
Third, an additional 3 or 4 digit Card Security Code (CSC) is now present on the back of most cards, for use in card not present transactions. Stakeholders at all levels in electronic payment have recognized the need to develop consistent global standards for security that account for and integrate both current and emerging security technologies. They have begun to address these needs through organizations such as PCI DSS and the Secure POS Vendor Alliance (Sony Vaio P battery) .
Code 10 calls are made when merchants are suspicious about accepting a credit card. The phrase "Code 10 authorization" is used to avoid alerting the customer to the fact that the merchant is suspicious of their card .
The operator then asks the merchant a series of YES or NO questions to find out whether the merchant is suspicious of the card or the cardholder. The merchant may be asked to retain the card if it is safe to do so (ACER TRAVELMATE 4400 battery) .
The way credit card owners pay off their balances has a tremendous effect on their credit history. Two of the most important factors reported to a credit bureau are the timeliness of the debt payments and the amount of debt to credit limit. Lenders want to see payments made as agreed, usually on a monthly basis, and a credit balance of around one-third the credit limit. The credit information stays on the credit report generally for 7 years (ACER TRAVELMATE 2410 battery) .
However, there are a few jurisdictions and situations where the timeframe might differ.
Profits and losses
In recent times, credit card portfolios have been very profitable for banks, largely due to the booming economy of the late nineties. However, in the case of credit cards, such high returns go hand in hand with risk, since the business is essentially one of making unsecured (uncollateralized) loans, and thus dependent on borrowers not to default in large numbers (ACER TRAVELMATE 4500 battery) .
Credit card issuers (banks) have several types of costs:
Banks generally borrow the money they then lend to their customers. As they receive very low-interest loans from other firms, they may borrow as much as their customers require, while lending their capital to other borrowers at higher rates (ACER ASPIRE 1360 battery) .
If the card issuer charges 15% on money lent to users, and it costs 5% to borrow the money to lend, and the balance sits with the cardholder for a year, the issuer earns 10% on the loan. This 10% difference is the "net interest spread" and the 5% is the "interest expense" (ACER ASPIRE 3020 battery) .
This is the cost of running the credit card portfolio, including everything from paying the executives who run the company to printing the plastics, to mailing the statements, to running the computers that keep track of every cardholder's balance, to taking the many phone calls which cardholders place to their issuer, to protecting the customers from fraud rings. Depending on the issuer, marketing programs are also a significant portion of expenses (ACER TRAVELMATE 2300 battery) .
When a consumer becomes severely delinquent on a debt (often at the point of six months without payment), the creditor may declare the debt to be a charge-off. It will then be listed as such on the debtor's credit bureau reports (Equifax, for instance, lists "R9" in the "status" column to denote a charge-off.) The item will include relevant dates, and the amount of the bad debt (ACER ASPIRE 5020 battery) .
A charge-off is considered to be "written off as uncollectable." To banks, bad debts and even fraud are simply part of the cost of doing business.
However, the debt is still legally valid, and the creditor can attempt to collect the full amount for the time periods permitted under state law, which is usually 3 to 7 years (sony vgp-bpl9 battery) .
This includes contacts from internal collections staff, or more likely, an outside collection agency. If the amount is large (generally over $1500–$2000), there is the possibility of a lawsuit or arbitration.
In the United States, as the charge off number climbs or becomes erratic, officials from the Federal Reserve take a close look at the finances of the bank and may impose various operating strictures on the bank, and in the most extreme cases, may close the bank entirely (Dell INSPIRON E1505 battery, SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31M Battery) .