Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Oh for a Chip and Pin Card

So I'm in England for my annual pilgrimage and feeling a bit like a foreigner once again. As many expats discover, with each year you're gone, your mother country becomes less and less familiar. New fangled procedures queue up to make you look like a complete idiot in your own land, compounded by the fact that you have the same accent as the natives and yet appear clueless. 

A few year ago it was the challenge of the supermarket trolleys/carts that require a pound coin as a deposit. Try as I might, I couldn't figure out just by watching others, quite how the feat was performed. You put a coin in somewhere, pulled something, and the trolley was released. On returning the trolley, you somehow joined it back together with the other trolleys and your coin was returned to you. This, of course, assumed that I actually had a pound coin to my name. Half the time I had to buy a newspaper or a packet of chewing gum to get the desired coinage. 

This year, once again, it's the bloody credit/debit card situation. Up and down the land, Brits are equipped with chip and pin cards. The whole process of paying for goods has changed in the last few years - no signatures required. There is even something you can wave at the scanner, although purchases are limited to thirty pounds and no more than thrice a day. Meanwhile in the US, while many of us now have a card with a chip in it, only a chosen few have been designated the magical PIN.

Despite Brits in America telling me that they have never had a problem with a PINless card in the UK, (as if it's somehow a moral failure on my part) every day is a new adventure for me with my cards. Unbelievably I visited Costco on two consecutive days and proffered my Visa card (with advance warning of its PINlessness). First day was no problem; second day, it wouldn't process. How can that be? (Fortunately my PINless American Express went through). Filling the car up at a petrol/gas station on the A1, my cards were all totally rejected by the sales assistant and I had to drag the Ball & Chain out of the car to pay with his Diners card (with a PIN). I suspect however, that the sales assistant just couldn't be bothered with the fuss of a manual process.


Yesterday in Sports Direct (a large national chain of sports stuff), my PINless Visa (again, with advance warning) sparked off a security procedure that would've put Buckingham Palace to shame. Although they could process it, because of recent scams, there are now internal steps in place involving a manager, a phone call to the bank, an internal code and a long queue of people muttering under their breath. Sigh. 

The real benefit of a chip and pin card is that there is now no matching of signatures. I remember working in retail decades ago and young Americans would try to make purchases armed with a parents' credit card. We were, under no circumstances, allowed to process cards with dodgy signatures, even if they were accompanied by a letter from said parent. Now though, I can make off with the Ball & Chain's PIN'ed card, key in his PIN and no questions will be asked. 

I think. 

8 comments:

  1. I found it very odd when I went back to the US on holiday last year, having lived back in England for two years and used chip and pin and contactless payments, to just show my card in shops and not even sign for things half the time. It's got to be more secure to have a pin number, surely! Contactless oyster cards on the Tube are the best - you never have to top up your travelcard again....

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    1. I know, although the contaactless cards worry me somewhat. Anyone can use your card if they find it or steal it. Good job there are limits.

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  2. There's loads of pros and cons to Chip & Pin, especially now that contactless has also come into play. It's great to be able to take just a couple of seconds to pay for your goods but if you lose your card, the contactless payment scheme means that you could be down £100 immediately.

    I always did wonder how kids in America got away with using parent's credit cards too!

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    1. When I worked in retail, they didn't usually get away with it. In the US however, no one looks at the signature. I have signed my husband's card with my own signature loads of times.

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  3. You can used these new cards just with the pin and not bother waving it about (which I don't like.)
    One word of warning...... it is possible for fraudsters to scan your card even when it's secure in your bag, so it's best to buy a special metal container to keep it is, or wrapping it in aluminium foil would be safe. Is this really progress?
    Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay.
    Maggie x

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    1. They actually make card holders now that prevent people from scanning the cards. I was skimmed at a hole-in-the-wall in England a few years ago and obviously didn't realise until I got back to the US and read me bank statement. They got away with a lot of money and my bank wasn't paying attention. Sigh.

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  4. This is the blogger formerly known as Brit Fancy...possibly I'm dispensing useless advice to you by now, but I was just in the UK a couple of weeks ago, and someone there explained to me that if you use a self-checkout, or some kind of stand alone automated thing (like a gas station pump), then you have to enter a pin. If a person is helping you,then they can usually bypass the pin part. But I don't know why then you'd have trouble at Costco. Hope you have better luck for the rest of your stay!

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    1. Hi there. Long time no hear!
      It seems to be completely arbitrary. The Costco guy couldn't explain it and was as baffled as me. The woman in the petrol station, I suspect, just couldn't be arsed. Some shops just don't have the means to process the non-PIN cards because they can't produce anything to sign, but the bigger stores, for the most part, have been OK once they have found a supervisor to ask what to do! I always check before I make a purchase though.

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