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How New Technologies Are Keeping Your Credit Card Safe

Worried about keeping your credit card account safe? Check out your card’s mobile app—chances are, it offers security measures you might not know about. In recent years, banks have rolled out a number of optional security features designed to stop a stranger from going on a spending spree on your dime before you even have a chance to notice.

Here are three examples of this burgeoning area of cybersecurity:

  • Temporary Account Freezes

Say you’ve misplaced your credit card—but aren’t sure if you dropped it in a store or simply left it on your dresser. Canceling the card and waiting several days before a new one is mailed out to you can be a hassle, especially when you don’t know if it’s actually lost or stolen or simply somewhere in your home.

Some card issuers, like Citibank, offer users the ability to temporarily block their cards from making cash advances or new purchases. The service, known as Citi Quick Lock, starts working instantly the moment you activate it from your mobile app or online account. But purchases marked as “recurring” by your card issuer will continue to be processed even while your card is locked. That means your monthly Netflix subscription or gym membership won’t be interrupted. If you end up finding your card, you can unlock it and start using it immediately.

Think it’s lost for good? That’s when you call up the bank and have them issue you a new card.

Discover offers a similar service called Freeze, also accessible through its mobile app. Wells Fargo gives banking customers the same opportunity for its debit card, allowing them to “turn the card off” through its mobile app.

  • Location Tagging

Ever tried to use your credit card while traveling—only to have it declined because your card issuer thinks it’s stolen? Visa offers a service that uses your mobile phone’s location to verify that the card is in the same place as you are. When making a purchase, Visa compares the location of your transaction to the location of your phone. If the two match, your transaction is instantly approved. Bank of America has incorporated this opt-in function into its mobile app. You can turn it on and off at any time, and Visa says the data they collect is only used for fraud analysis.

Don’t want to go that far? Most banks offer the ability to set up text message alerts whenever your credit card is involved in a “card not present” transaction—think mostly Internet transactions. You’ll get a notice when you—or someone else—uses your card to make an online purchase.

  • Biometric Logging

Mastercard is taking security one step further. In April, the company unveiled a new payment card in South Africa that features a biometric fingerprint scanner. When cardholders register the card with their bank, they also store their fingerprint—which is converted into an encrypted digital template. When paying for something in a store, the cardholder dips the card into the retailer’s terminal and then verifies her identity on an embedded sensor, which verifies whether the fingerprint matches the cardholder’s. When matched, the transaction is approved.

Mastercard expects to hold additional trials in Europe and Asia before unrolling an official version worldwide.

See also: How Can Biometrics Protect Your Identity?

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