Probus Learn To Play Their Cards Right

President David Wickens with Michael Luck

The phrase, generally attributed to, but denied by the actor Sir Michael Caine “Not a lot of people know that!” could be applied to some of the information that came from the talk at the latest meeting of the Probus Club of Basingstoke.

The talk, titled Play Your Cards Right by Bramley resident Michael Luck, an expert in card payments systems, was about the history of credit cards and how their security has changed over the years with advancing technology. One fact that instantly connects to the phrase above was that a pin number, used to confirm the user, is not seen by the bank when making a payment but stays within the chip on your card.

The first on the scene was the Diners Card in 1950 followed by the American Express card in 1958, both of which were printed on cardboard. This goes some way to explain why today being made of plastic they are still called cards. Amex changed to a plastic card with embossed lettering in 1959. These two early ones were in fact charge cards in that the full amount had to be paid off each month.

Diners Club Card 1950

Barclaycard arrived in the late 1960s with a credit card as we know them today. Zip-Zap imprinters used three-part payment slips which the user had to sign.

The magnetic strip, as still seen today, was introduced in 1970 and contained the name, card number, expiry date and some other data. Point of Sale electronic terminals in 1980 used to swipe the magnetic strip which was considered secure as there were no computer viruses and hackers in those days. The latest chips contain even more information which means that in all probability the magnetic strip will eventually vanish.

It was the French, in 1975, who developed the use of a chip placed on the reverse of the card while it took until the early 2000s for the Safeway supermarket chain being the first in the UK to use this technology.

First French Card With Chip

Contactless cards were introduced into the UK in 2008 and had very slow acceptance as people were concerned that if their wallet was close to a terminal that a payment just might be actioned. Young people, as with many technological advances, saw the ease of use and this was especially so when in May 2011, the restaurant chain McDonald’s introduced this no signature required system. With most of their sales transactions below £20 this was seen as a great benefit by the company and today they have one of the most sophisticated card payment programmes in the World.

The Covid pandemic saw the rest of the UK rapidly come to accept this system especially when the maximum limit was raised to £100. However, this also brought about increased fraudulent activity if a card was stolen as no signature was needed.

What next, you wonder? The future has arrived and as from March this year, as banks and retailers boost their security systems, customers will be sent a code by their bank to enter online or at a terminal in a retail establishment as proof that they are who the card says is the account holder. This is called Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). This will not happen on every occasion, perhaps one in four, especially for small value transactions, but if a retailer is not ready for the new process there could be times when a card is declined.

Some retailers are already using this system when large values are involved or when a customer uses a web site for the first time. There is a problem that a user might be confused as not all banks use the same criteria. PayPal is included and Apple Pay on mobile phones already use a code, fingerprint or facial recognition to approve the payment.

If there weren’t so many dishonest people in the world these changes to the security systems would be unnecessary but the banks are doing their best to ensure that only you access your money.