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Living in a third world cards country

With that title, I bet you thought I was going to blog a bit more about China and how their card systems are developing.


In fact, China, Russia, South Africa and many other emerging nations have robust, reliable and secure card networks, thanks to new infrastructures and ideas.  For example, most of Eastern Europe, Russia and South Africa use SMS text messaging to maintain card security on transcations.

Customers simply sign up with the program and then, based upon the parameters they set such as transactions more than $100 domestically or any overseas transaction, they get an text message pinged to their mobile every time there's a transaction.

This advert from Alfa Bank in Russia illustrates the idea well:

So I'm in Hong Kong yesterday and need some cash.

My AMEX card is not setup for ATM withdrawals, but I have two UK cards in my wallet.

Both are rejected.

Ah well, I'm lucky as I manage to beg HK$1000 (about US$150) from friends to get enough cash to pay for the taxi back to the hotel.

This morning I call my voicemail with Skype, as it's about US$2 per minute to use my mobile, and find a message to call the fraud centre of both of the UK card companies concerned.

So I do.

Both are courteous and helpful and explain why they barred my cards.

However, I point out, the fact is that I travel globally all year.  They know that.

They ask that I always call before I travel.  I say, fine, shall I call you every day?

They tell me it's policy to leave a message, as they did, so it shouldn't be an issue.

I respond that it costs me US$2 per minute to pickup messages on my mobile whilst outside the EU, and that SMS text messages would be a far cheaper, simpler and more real time method of managing the issue than calling me a leaving a voicemail.

"I'm sorry sir, but our systems are not set up to do that.  But I'll recommend it to my manager."

I bet you will.

This is Britain in the 21st century.

Combine this with the completely dumb way we rolled out Xiring terminals and Chip & PIN, and I think I'll have to move to China, Russia or Africa to get a decent credit card service.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • “SMS text messages would be a far cheaper, simpler and more real time method of managing the issue”.
    I completely agree – while the reported ‘recession crime wave’ explains why, more than ever, banks need to take a proactive approach to managing and preventing fraudulent transactions in order to minimise the related losses, this cannot come at the expense of great customer service. In fact, in the current economic environment where customer trust in the banking relationship has been shaken, it is vital that banks listen to their customers and address their needs directly.
    By allowing customers to set the security parameters that they feel most comfortable with – such as being notified of transactions above £1,000 or outside certain countries – and sending an automatic SMS alert when these are breached, banks can put the control back into the hands of the customer and deliver a more personalised banking service. The customer experience will be improved through reducing the number of false positives, as you experienced in Hong Kong, whilst also minimising the risk of genuine fraud being masked.
    There are significant benefits for banks providing this service. In effect, an SMS alerting system can significantly reduce the bank’s losses from fraudulent transactions. In today’s economic climate, any proposition that saves banks money whilst also satisfying their customers seems too good to miss.

  • An interesting title, but more so when juxtaposed with your previous blog ‘We know where you are’.
    No self-respecting third world country is going to use cards!
    The third world uses mobile*.
    And if we use mobile as a means of communication, as your banks clearly do, then they know that they’re calling a cell in Timbuktu to query a transaction at an ATM within the range of the cell in Timbuktu to check whether it’s genuine. No sh*t Sherlock!
    Use an SMS to enable multi-factor where not locally-enabled if you like (and a good idea) but if you’re going to do that, make it part of the authentication procedure.
    Otherwise, they know where you are, so they know that you’re in Timbuktu. End of story.
    * I’m well aware the third world don’t use mobile properly, as they largely use it as a means of money transfer to enable someone to … drum roll … go to an ATM and get the cash, but that’s another question.
    PS and from the previous post, you DO need to move your mortgage 🙂