Credit card provider Visa is to start trials of an SMS notification service, alerting you by text message every time your card is used, to reduce fraud and help money management. The idea of sending a text every time a card is used isn't very new - First Direct has been offering such a service to UK punters for several years - …
The FD service, unless there's an option I've missed, doesn't send an immediate alert, but you can set what you want to know about, and when, then alerts go out around 7am the next day.
You can also set the thresholds for notifications, such as any transaction above 50 quid, every transaction if your balance is below £xx, or a mini-statement on a particular day of the week. So it's not quite instant, but definitely useful for knowing when something's happened in a reasonable time frame.
I've been using First Direct's SMS alerts for years, and they're fantastic. I always have a good idea of how much money I've got, and it's much easier to keep a check on payments as they go out – rather than poring over a statement a month and a half later and trying to work out what all the mad-sounding abbreviations and acronyms are, next to payments I can't remember.
Can't recommend the service highly enough, and I hope lots more card providers take up the idea.
Could be good
I'd like such a service, though ideally it'd inform me by email- it's cheaper for them (so cheaper for me) and more convenient for me (I get it on multiple devices and can filter them out from my main messages pretty easily). They could also include more information, like the location of the withdrawl (if available) and the amount charged.
I'm pretty sure VISA already have my email address, and if not I'd be happy to dish it out to them- so it's no big deal from a security point of view.
Been there, done that
In Hungary, most banks offer this. I've had this for at least 6 years now. Not only with visa, but with all cards. Danm convenient and good thing.
I must say though, most cards here are direct debit, not credit cards.
So yeah, nothing new. Just one step higher in the supply chain.
The only thing that can void this is that in some countries - like the UK - POS terminals don't actually charge the card if it is only a very small ammount. They are faster this way, plus "you probably have more than enough to spend that much" if you have a card. So slower card processing for the quick buyers.
One small step in the right direction
Having been ripped off to a small extent last month (getting hit with a second charge from a company after an online purchase), what I want to see is *approval* of charges through a smartphone app or similar: if I buy, say, a £5 book from Amazon, I would see a notification pop up on my phone asking me to approve it. If I go and enter my Visa number on some other website, being told it's for one amount - say, £1.99 - then the charge gets put through as a far higher amount - like £38 - I can just click 'deny', rather than having to wade through paperwork to challenge the charge after the fact. Much better.
I've had occasional unauthorised charges, including having my card number copied in a bar then used for online gambling the next day, and also had charges bounced pending verification; having an instant way for Visa to check charges with me directly would virtually eliminate both, as long as it worked! Maybe not a panacea, but a big improvement for very little cost.
The wife and I have several joint accounts. Which of us gets notified?
The Barn has a couple of accounts, too. Will the barn need to check its messages?
All in all, it sounds like a daft idea to me :-)
Seriously, having been caught out before by theives, this is a service I do in fact want.
It would be even better if before a transaction was authorised I had to reply to said text!
Chase has been doing this for years
Chase bank has had automated alerts for many years, allowing for sending alerts to any email, including to an SMS gateway. They now also offer banking by SMS, but not for credit cards.
To reduce the number of alerts, you can set a threshold amount, and only receive alerts when a charge exceeding that amount is processed.
You'd think this would be useful, but Chase found a way to cripple it -- instead of sending details, the alert just says "A charge exceeding the threshold value has posted to your account".
What a good idea
Also, only be able to deliver things to payees address. laser etched photo and signature on each card issued, record IP addresses whenever transactions occur (none are infallible I know, but every little helps).
And customer tell their banks if they're going overseas, when and where, so if money is withdrawn outside of the UK, the banks will know if it's legitimate.
Also, if the bank is suspicious of a transaction, they phone or text the customer to query it (who hasn't got a mobile?), and wait for confirmation. These services could be opt in with promises that identity theft and money loss would be swallowed by the bank if you do so.
As to the cost to the bank, well sorry, but they seem to be swimming in billions, they can afford it.
Accidental Snooping? :P
Imagine leaving your phone at home one day and coming home to questions about why you're spending so much money on hookers/games/comics/pizzas :)
The problem with email...
... is that banks never use it anymore, do they?
Firstly, they'll claim its insecure to include transaction details in email, because anyone could be intercepting it (although, frankly, I don't trust SMS much more). Secondly there's the usual phishing attack excuse (even though the banks themselves can't get their SSL certificates right.)
So, if it ever happens, what we'll end up with is a rather useless "there have been some transactions on your card" email, and you'll have to logon, typing in the URL manually, and go through a complicated 3 stage authentication process on an overloaded web server to be told about a transaction 99 times out of a 100 you already knew about anyway....