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A difference a day (Thursday: Banking)

Minii sized debit cardPay attention. I said Banking. Just checking. (Or should that be ‘chequeing’ [groan] )

Old home: My ‘old’ debit card back home (with Abbey) was just that – a debit card.

It had a 16 digit card number stamped across the front of it (and a CSV code on the back too), but it also had my banks 6 digit sort code and 8 digit account number stamped on it. Oh, and don’t forget Chip and Pin too.

New home: My ‘new’ visa card (complete with my police file mugshot on it) appears to act as both a debit and credit card. I’m very confused by this, as when in shops I go to pay for something, and they say “Debit or Credit?”. How can it be both?

Even then, when I go “Huh?”, work out that I want to say “Debit”, I find that I have to press a button on the payment machine that says ‘ATM‘ anyway, even though I’m not drawing any money out.

Bank account numbers are 12 digits long. Sort codes are called ‘routing codes’, and they’re not printed on the card. In fact, if you ring (call) up your bank to try and find out what your account number or routing1 code is, they’re not able to tell you because you get caught in an automated system that likes to tell you to press ‘8’ a lot if you want to transfer money to Mexico.

Confused? Excellent – me too.

But Bank of America redeemed themselves completely this week by giving me the most completely pointless and yet neatest thing I’ve ever seen … a mini-sized Visa card which you attach to your keyring!

So instead of getting your wallet out and then card out to pay for something, you just take your keys out of your pocket, and swipe the mini version through the shops card reader instead.

It’s two inches wide, by one inch deep and all it really means is that if I lose my keys now, someone can drive off in my car, get into my house AND have access to my bank card. And yet … I really really like it. And unless anyone can tell me different, you don’t get them in England …

[1] Pronounced “Wrrrrouting”

32 responses to “A difference a day (Thursday: Banking)”

  1. Mikey says:

    That’s what happens when you decide to leave us and flee to another country

  2. Neil says:

    Isn’t it pronounced “row-ting”, as in when you have a row (argument) with someone?

  3. Geoff says:

    Tesco do the keyring thingy for their Clubcard…

  4. Jono says:

    The best one (he says, in the most sarcastic sense possible) is the new Starbucks card. This allows you to add credits, and use them to pay for stuff in Starbucks, quickly and easily!

    And to think, for all these years, I’ve been using slow, difficult money to pay for my coffee – what a fool I’ve been!

  5. Alan Perks says:

    #3 Nectar have just sent me one of those keyring things, AND you can scan the card yourself at the till……WOW! My life is now complete.

  6. TowerBlockTina says:

    Now you have to use ‘Chip & Pin everytime at the checkout, you are expected to put your own card in the card-reader, type pin in, and then know when to take it out, thus doing most of the work.

    The till person does very little now, although they do offer to pack your bag (sometimes).

    Buying a loaf of bread & 2pts of milk in your lunch-1/2 hour takes about 40 mins! The queues are still lengthy, as all this slows the process down. Whatever happened to good old cash?

  7. Mikey says:

    I read a really interesting/scary article on this. Wish I could remember where it is. Basically, by having you remember your PIN, and the cashiers not touching anything, it puts all blame of fraud on you, and the banks are not liable. I think it might have been on boingboing.

    [Geofftech – This ?]

  8. David - Lightwater says:

    I have heard some america’s say routing the english way, although I can’t remember where…

  9. Kristy says:

    Working in bank for the past six years, this is something I can explain.

    Debit comes directly from your checking account, as if you had gone to an ATM to withdraw money. Credit, obviously, acts like a credit card, where you sign and it gets sent through Visa to the bank.

    Here’s the major differences:

    1. Debit is fast and can hit your account almost immediately. Credit can take a few days.
    2. Debit is cheaper for the company/vendor because they don’t have to pay a big credit card processor fees for the transactions.
    3. Many people have banks that charge them if they go over a certain number of ATM withdrawals per month and these banks count Debit transaction as withdrawals, therefore, people want the choice to use credit so they don’t get charged the extra fees.
    4. If it’s processed as a credit card, you are afforded protection by the credit card processor, which allows you to dispute any fraudulent charges with a liability for you of up to $50. If it’s debit, you have no protection and if the dispute is not settled, could be liable for the whole amount.
    When you use it as a credit card, you can have the bank do a chargeback, which returns the transaction and charges the merchant a fee for the fradulent charge, or the mistaken charge (like if they charged you twice).

    I’ve seen banks give just ATM cards, which are tied directly to your account and are like you cards back home – you just use a PIN to get your money. But here’s the interesting thing – those ATM cards can only be used to withdraw money. Most stores won’t accept JUST ATM cards – they have to be a debit/credit card.

    The old bank I worked at wouldn’t even tell customers their balance over the phone because of identity issues (they had no way to verify that the customer was actually who they said they were).

    Routing numbers are printed on your checks, they’re the first nine numbers. The numbers after that are your account number and that even varies by bank: my old bank was ten digit account numbers, the new one is eleven.

    Just some knowledge I felt I could share since this is an area of expertise for me! πŸ™‚

  10. geofftech says:

    Kristy – nice info, thanks!

    But what’s weird is that back in England a card is EITHER a debit or a credit card. I’m very confused that one piece of plastic here can be both, even though (I’ve just looked) it DOES have the word ‘Debit’ written on it.

    A credit card to me is a seperate account where you get a bill each month that you have to pay. Are you saying that I can use my DEBIT card in a CREDIT card style way (and I will get protection, etc..) but it will still just be billed pretty much instantly off of my account in a debit card style way? Or have I really confused you all now !?

    Re: Rrrrrrouting numbers … great! Except that I don’t have cheque for my bank account. I said ‘no thanks’, as who uses cheques anymore? And yet trying to find out my routing number (so that someone back home could transfer me some money direct into my US bank account) was a nightmare.

    And I have yet to even mention IBAN’s yet. That was just get even more confusing.

  11. Brent says:

    You are correct, Geoff, you get protection while using your DEBIT card as a CREDIT card, yet the money comes straight out of your checking account as it would if you use it as a DEBIT card. The reason is as Kristy states, it goes through VISA then to your bank…VISA being the one that gives the protection.

    If you solely go DEBIT, then VISA never sees your transaction going through them and the money is processed straight to your bank. If you use CREDIT, then VISA processes your transaction, giving you the peace of mind if you are dealing with a large transaction that if you get screwed over, you can still get your money back.

    Its all in the wonders of the little black magentic strip on the back of the card πŸ™‚

    Also, just an insider’s view…a bank’s routing (not pronounced row-ting, but rout-ing) number is actually the Federal Reserve’s identifier for the bank so that they know where every transaction is originated from. In this way, if there is ever a discrepancy at your bank, they go to the Fed to get it straightened out, and the Fed actually knows where things are.

  12. Kristy says:

    You’re welcome!

    I think the reason they created the whole debit/credit system here is that there were a lot of places that took Visa/MC/Amex/Discover but DIDN’T take straight ATM cards, or cards directly linked to banking accounts. So it was cash, check or credit card. By having the debit/credit system, you had more flexibility with the money in your account and didn’t have to use “credit” in the traditional way while the debit option gave you the ability to still go to an ATM and withdraw money from your account.

    I have CREDIT cards, which are separate accounts where I get a bill each month and a pay a portion or all of my balance, depending on what kind of month I’m having. Then I have my DEBIT card, which I use mostly as debit, where I put in my PIN, but for big purchases, I use it as credit, where I have to sign. So yes, you can use it both ways – you get the protection without the rewards and the interest rates. But even protection is more limited, as it’s set individually by each bank and they have their own standards.

    Bottom line benefit for users is not having to withdraw money at an ATM for places that only take credit cards and avoiding bank fees for a lot of ATM withdrawals(I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was once the fast food places started taking credit b/c it was a pain to make sure you had cash just to get food, especially after carrying the debit card around for so long). Benefit for the merchants if you use debit is they don’t get charged hefty fees. So essentially, nobody wins that battle.

    Ahh, no cheques. That would explain a lot. And I would agree, dealing with larger banks like yours does take a miracle to get someone live on the phone. But you’re going to hate me for this link: The routing numbers are really for the Federal Reserve to know where the checks originated from and what Fed region of the country they belong.

    I hope I made more sense. It always was a confusing idea for me, even when they first came out. Welcome to America, I guess! LOL

  13. Kristy says:

    Brent beat me to it – but you get the idea!

  14. Fimb says:

    So, its like my Visa Debit card but you get asked a question?!

  15. Brent says:

    Sorry, Kristy, didn’t mean to steal your thunder, just add to it πŸ˜‰

  16. You see, when I was asked that question in the states, I always thought they were asking me what kind of card it was.

    Surely it’s far easier to see someone’s pin and enter it correctly than it is to correctly forge a signature. I don’t buy this chip and pin “security” crap.

  17. Stewart says:

    What’s rather unnerving is the prospect of losing a keyring with a credit/debit/&c card attached…

  18. geofftech says:

    Stew… indeed. This is the most worrying thing! In fact, I just slid my hand down to my trouser [pants] pockets just now half way thru typing this to check that my keys were still there!

    Fimb – that’s the whole point. it IS a debit card. but you can also use it in thge style of a credit card transaction, even though the amount it still debited and not credited anywhere! confusing, huh?

    Ian – no one checks signatures anyway! when you pay for something in a restaurant here on credit, you get the bill (check), sign it, take your copy of the slip and get up and walk away. no one ever checks your signature.

  19. Paul says:

    I could talk banks and iban numbers all day, but i really want a job out of banking cos it sucks!!

  20. geofftech says:

    Paul… oh go on, please do .. reveal all that you know about the myterious IBAN and why all banks like to charge to fcuking much for wanting to use one to transfer money internationally! ’cause at this rate, everyone is going to go over to paypal where the charges are MUCH cheaper…

  21. Andrew says:

    I forgot my chip and pin number the other day and they let me sign for it instead. I must’ve looked trustworthy, or could be because it was at a petrol stationery and I already had their petrol.

  22. jj says:

    #18 – where do you eat? my I.D. gets checked all the time.

    perhaps i just seem naturally untrustworthy…

  23. Kallure says:

    It’s ok Brent – great minds …

    Here’s a crazy thing about restaurants too. They bring your bill, you slide the credit card in the folder and they take the bill and the card away to process it. Gives them enough time to write the number down or take a cell phone picture, which I’ve heard of people doing.

    Let’s not even get into identity theft and how people SHOULD be checking signatures when they don’t. But also, at many places, you don’t even sign if your purchase is under $10-$15. And any credit card, debit or otherwise, is technically not valid unless it’s signed on the back. Even writing SEE ID isn’t supposed to be acceptable.

    Six years in banking and six years in retail gives you all sorts of tidbits about this stuff.

  24. Steve says:

    (previous comment)”Now you have to use ‘Chip & Pin everytime at the checkout, you are expected to put your own card in the card-reader, type pin in, and then know when to take it out, thus doing most of the work.”

    Do you? every c&p reader has a slot pointing towards you, but everyone just hands the card over. The card etiquette doesn’t seem to have advanced to DIY in most places in the uk.

  25. Erin says:

    Back home in NZ, you can have three types of accounts on your visa card – current (Debit), Credit and savings, so when you insert your card into the machine, it gives you the option of which account to use. Makes things so much easier, only have to remember one pin number and carry one card. Of course they can issue you seperate cards for each account,
    which I keep as a back up just in case I loose the card with all three accounts on it!

  26. TowerBlockTina says:

    #24 In my town they really do hand you back your card for you to put in the c&p thingy, and give you a withering look as if you’re stupid! Geoff,you can still keep your new keyring debit/credit card in your wallet, definitely safer I think. Keys can fall out of your pocket quite easily, or you might drop them down a drain. I suppose you could attach a cord and wear it round your neck!

  27. geofftech says:

    NZ were one of the first countries in the world to introduce Chip & Pin style payments. Ross! Where are you when I need you for some NZ commentary?

    JJ – Ok, i had lunch at O’Malleys on King Street yesterday. Came to $12. Bill was presented to me, I handed over card, got card back, I signed – then got up and walked away without anyone checking it. Happens all the time.

    Maybe it’s the way you look, yes .. or maybe my cute Britishness just wins all the servers over πŸ™‚

    Kristy – what bank do you work for? or can’t you say?

  28. Kristy says:

    I’ve been with the smaller banks during my career. Now, I’m at Southcoast, in Mt. Pleasant.
    Don’t really think I’d want to work at a bigger bank because I prefer the smaller cozy community environment over the big corporate one.

  29. jj says:

    #27 – bizarrely, i had the owner of the building O’Malleys is in over at the house tonight. he liked my beer.

  30. Erin says:

    # 27 Yes well NZ is good at being at the forefront of some things at least – I can’t remember not having an EFTPOS card with a pin number, thought it was really weird when I first moved to UK/Europe that you have EFTPOS cards but still sign for the purchases, but I am getting used to the backwardness of UK banks these days.

  31. Gareth H says:

    That explains why I was asked this same question when I was over earlier this year.I though te assistant was either a bit dim, or was confused by the fact taht the Brit had given here a green bit of plastic with egg wrtiiten on it.

  32. Geoff- You mentioned that no one here checks your signature, and you are correct. A friend of mine does not sign the back of his credit card, but in large-tip black marker writes “CHECK ID” so that the store clerk will ask for his drivers license and verifies the signature there. You would be amazed at how rarely the person ever looks at the back of his card and asks for ID.

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