If the introduction of contactless payment was a step too far for you, look away now because credit cards are about to get way more high-tech.
You’ve already seen the beginning of Near Field Communication (NFC) implementation with contactless payment. When it comes to the long-term though, it looks like you may soon be doing away with cards entirely.
With an NFC chip installed in your phone and an app from your bank, your mobile could effectively replace your cards as you use your phone as a contactless payments system.
Not only will it be easier to pay, but by taking advantage of the additional inputs available on a phone to improve security, it could also ease some of our fraud worries.
The NFC chips themselves even hold some residual power when your battery has died, allowing you to make payments long after you can no longer make calls.
If you lose your cards, or they are stolen, you should call your provider and have them cancelled. That way, the thief can’t use your cards in person and the details will no longer work on any online accounts you currently have.
But maybe that’s not enough. Maybe you don’t want them to have any card of yours, past or present, functional or non-functional. Well, that’s where Iowa State University’s materials division comes in.
Their research into ‘transient materials’, mostly for medical and military use, could also find application in the field of credit cards. The materials they are developing are designed to ‘quickly and completely melt away when a trigger is activated’, meaning that if you lose your card to a thief, it won’t be long before they lose it as well.
The allure of a universal card for your wallet is easy to see – just look at all those cards. In the past they may have been unavoidable, but in the 21st century a wallet the size of your fist just doesn’t cut it.
That’s why many companies (including, most notably, Coin) are working to change the way we carry cards.
A credit card-shaped computer is the key. The computer comes with a magnetic strip that stores data from all of your cards allowing you to choose which one you want to use at any given time. Simply select the card you want to use with the accompanying app and hand it over. Smart.
It seems awfully clunky for every card-accepting merchant to have to hand over a small machine for you to make a transaction. It also seems awfully unsafe, entering your PIN in front of strangers like that. This is why card designers are experimenting with inputs on the card itself.
Having a keypad on your card allows you to enter your PIN on the card itself, where and when you choose to, essentially ‘unlocking’ it. Once it is unlocked the card can then be used to transfer money.
And there’s more – key card information such as your card and security numbers and even expiry date appear on many of these prototype cards only after you’ve entered your password. That way, if your card is lost or stolen, it will be useless to anyone other than you.
When travelling abroad it is commonplace for people to use credit cards as a means of avoiding the fees that come with exchanging cash. A recurrent problem when using credit cards abroad, however, is that unless you first inform your bank that you are going overseas you will likely be contacted on suspicion that your card is being used fraudulently.
The administrative headaches this gives banks has been a long-running issue, but network company Syniverse is looking to change all of that. By tracking your phone while you are on holiday – at no extra charge to you – they will tie your mobile’s location to that of your credit card, and in the process validate whether it is in fact you using your card before informing you of any potential fraud.
This extends to use in Britain, too, and any extra layer of security is always welcome, especially when your finances are on the line.