Bank cards: where have all the numbers gone?  †  Banks and mortgage banks

Bank cards: where have all the numbers gone? † Banks and mortgage banks

Bank cards: where have all the numbers gone?  †  Banks and mortgage banks

First there was the contactless revolution; now credit and debit cards are becoming countless.

Increasingly, banks are relegating information such as the 16-digit number and expiration date to the back of the card, with a few using the whole lot and not printing them anywhere.

For decades, bank cards looked pretty much the same: fairly practical, with the account holder’s name, long number, and “valid from” and “expiry” dates all usually printed on the front (plus, in the case of debit cards, the account number). and sort code), and the three-digit card security code, usually on the back.

However, it is now more and more common to see a fairly simple and uncluttered front cover, or perhaps a striking image (such as a bright yellow beach hut), with the numbers and other personal information printed on the back.

In early 2020, a payment service called Curve announced that it had launched “the first countless cards in Europe”. These cards, which were made available to the company’s investors, had all numbers removed.

Since then, the UK digital bank Chase has made a feature of the completely uncountable debit card you get with its checking account. It says this adds an extra layer of security for customers. But while the move was welcomed by some customers, others questioned how easy it is to pay for items online or over the phone.

Chase countless debit cards
Chase’s countless debit card. Photo: Chase

For decades, bank cards looked pretty much the same: fairly practical, with the account holder’s name, long number, and “valid from” and “expiry” dates all usually printed on the front (plus, in the case of debit cards, the account number). and sort code), and the three-digit card security code, usually on the back.

But in recent years, a new breed of digital banking and apps has shaken up the financial world, and it’s now becoming more common for new credit and debit cards to have a fairly simple and uncluttered front, or perhaps an eye-catching image (such as a bright yellow beach hut), with the numbers and other personal information on the back.

Among the high street banks there is certainly a trend. Barclaycard redesigned its credit cards earlier this year to remove numbers from the front, while NatWest began rolling out new payment cards in April – where “all the usual card information is now on the back”.

Halifax, HSBC and First Direct are just some of the others who have done the same.

Some may wonder if moving the numbers back and the other design changes is all about aesthetics as banks try to emulate the “Instagram generation” by sprucing up their products.

But there are other factors at play, some of which are a reflection of the meteoric rise of digital wallet services like Apple Pay. First Direct says the redesign means your card will be easier to find if you’re browsing a digital wallet.

Meanwhile, HSBC says it wanted the design of the front of the card to be “simple, clean and effective in helping our customers with disabilities. By moving all the text to the back of the card, we were able to make the text larger and more powerful without interrupting the design of the front of the card.” It adds that moving the numbers backwards “comes with a level of enhanced security” as it means your card details are less visible to people nearby.

HSBC logo at a London branch
HSBC says moving the numbers to the back of cards “comes with a level of enhanced security.” Photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Chase, which launched in the UK last September, says a customer’s card details are stored behind a secure login to the app, so people won’t put their personal information at risk if they lose their physical card. It adds that if a customer ever needs to replace their card details, they can immediately generate new ones in the app.

However, a customer tweeted that their uncountable card was “annoying” adding: “Every time I pay I have to open the bill and find the number instead of simply looking at a card and typing the number. Pretty pointless piece of security. ”

The bank says your card details can be quickly accessed in the app by tapping the blue card at the top of the home screen, then tapping “view details.”

If you are returning or picking up something and are asked for a card number, it says to search for the transaction in the app and scroll to “card ending with”. Most places should only see the last four digits, it adds.

A spokesperson said: “We consistently hear from customers that they see having a zillion cards as an advantage in protecting against fraud and theft.”

A customer tweeted that moving to Chase was “the best thing I’ve ever done”, and countless cards meant that if there were any problems, “they just change the card number remotely, and there’s no need to send one in unless you lose it If you lose it, there are no details about it for a scammer to use.”

Armen Najarian from Outseer, who specializes in anti-fraud solutions, says that even for providers like Chase who don’t have numbers on their cards, “a card number exists digitally, so vulnerabilities still exist”. He adds: “In the vast majority of fraud cases, the fraudster never sees the card, as these attacks usually take place online… So if a card number exists – physical or digital – it’s up for grabs.”

Santander has launched numerous cards in locations such as Mexico, but says it currently has no plans to introduce them in the UK.

Guardian Money spoke to a British bank that said it had considered going down the myriad path but decided against it. “Deleting all card details forces customers to obtain it digitally,” the bank said, adding that many people are not digitally active.

However, David Griffiths of the payment technology company Contis says: “Not printing the card numbers on the back of the card is a bit of a novelty at the moment. But if people come to believe it makes their data more secure, the demand for such cards will grow. First of all, I think numerous cards look neat, and we’re going to see more of them because they look neat.”