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Credit Card Signatures Are About to Become Extinct in the U.S (nytimes.com)
315 points by semiquaver 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 531 comments

In the UK cards moved to 'chip and pin' in 2006! Fraud in a 'customer present' scenario is very low at our stores. The last fraud in fact was a foreign card that didn't support chip and pin. I can't believe Visa and MasterCard have not made it mandatory world wide...

...except card fraud lossed are recharged to the merchant so perhaps they don't care?

Out of interest there is a special exception for disabled people who cannot use a pin pad btw...

And even earlier in other EU countries I imagine, as I was in Luxembourg in 2001 and used pin to pay in supermnarkets with my UK card.

Yes, I think it was way earlier than 2006. In France, every card in 1995 had chip and pin.

I think there were a few years where both chip & pin and signatures were in use, but 2006 was the date that chip and pin was mandatory


The UK was relatively late to the party, some large retailers here campaigned against it as they were afraid that going online for authorisations would increase the time it took to serve people. I believe that the offline mode was enough to appease them, even now you occasionally run up against offline-only EMV terminals.

I was just looking for a chip-and-pin card that I (as an American) could get for traveling to the UK and apparently there really isn't much out there. I think all of the US cards that support chip and pin prioritize signature over pin.

I also found this Visa page explaining that PIN isn't used in the US because it's too expensive:


I recently traveled to the states from Canada and was amazed at the number of places that didn't even have the infrastructure for chip & pin - I was at a popular tourist spot and it was all iPads & Square Readers.

Weird. The Square readers we have in Australia support both chip-and-pin and contactless (+pin for purchases > $100). Were they only using the cheaper audio-jack swipe readers in the US? (Not allowed here any more)

I've been using Apple Pay recently, and one annoyance I had was that one store when I paid (for a >$2k purchase) didn't ask for my PIN... it asked for a signature. And then of course I was meant to present my card for verification. And I couldn't... what?

It was the audio jack swipe readers.

Apple Pay lets you spend that much money? I think with Google Pay + my bank the limit is $100 / transaction, after which you have to use your card + pin (which, let's be honest, makes sense.

Before I moved full time to the UK i was in the same position. The only bank I found that provided true chip and pin was Andrews FCU. https://www.andrewsfcu.org/personal/loans-and-credit/credit-...

I never got one though, I ended up getting married soon after and got a UK bank account.

FWIW, I set an ATM PIN for a US issued CC and found the PIN worked for retail terminals in NZ. YMMV

I hope that didn't count as a cash advance

It did not

Might check some of the credit unions you can join. I know at least FirstTech uses chip and pin for their credit cards.

I can confirm that. I specifically signed up for FirstTech for their Chip and Pin cards. Their Mastercard is quite good for traveling and has Chip and Pin.

It was great when I was traveling in Iceland where pretty much every transaction was made with my card. It's a regional credit union, but I only had to visit a branch in person one time to change the PIN on my card.

First Tech security is pretty top notch. For online trnsacations over a certain amount they would ask for password verification.

I just wished online transactions owned it up for optional two factor online transactions, pin card transactions and SMS verifications for all transactions above $500.

That would drop fraud significantly.

FirstTech's credit card is PIN priority. I've only used it in Canada so far, but it works as expected there.

Do you know if you have to join the credit union to get a card, or do they issue them to anybody?

Edit: I just contact them and you do indeed have to become a member first.

First Tech's membership bar is quite low, I was surprised how easy it was to get my SO an account. The Zelle integration on the mobile app is pretty slick too!

> The last fraud in fact was a foreign card that didn't support chip and pin.

"The last fraud"? Are frauds so rare that it's meaningful to talk about the last one?!

Last in this case means "previous" or "most recent". Its just ambiguous English.

Oh yes, I understood that. I still can't believe they're so rare that you can talk about the "most recent" one. And how would jimnotgym know? Most puzzling.

Note the phrase 'at our stores' in the preceding sentence. We don't know whether it's a couple of stores or a supermarket chain, but either way, it is likely that someone knows within any given enterprise.

Oh, I interpreted that as a patriotic way of saying "at British stores". Thanks for explaining!

I'm visiting London this summer (I'm from Texas).

Normally, I pay for everything with American Express. Would you recommend I get a different card for London? I wonder if there's a US card that support chip and pin?

A lot of businesses in the UK/Europe do not accept American Express due to higher fees. You would be better off getting a different card preferably that supports contactless payments so you could use it on the tube and buses instead of an Oyster card (remember to touch it on the way out as well).


A Revolut card supports chip and pin and contactless, I'm not sure if it's 100% launched for US customers yet though: https://www.revolut.com/us/

Upvote and reply, because Revolut is a dream. Prepaid so fraud is minimum risk (no possible overdraft), top up via mobile app, disable the card when you're not using it. It's so convenient that I use it to buy from shady sites (game keys, in game currency etc) and just disable the card once the purchase is complete. I can't believe it's still free.

Sorry for gushing. I love Revolut.

Mostly it's fine using AMEX. There's enough exceptions I carry another card, but it's not that bad.

Also: TFL accept AMEX contactless as payment/oyster equivalent.

Most businesses now do support Amex -- there's been a major shift in the last few years.

You'll find a number of places that don't take American Express, so have an alternative with you. If you have Apple or Android Pay, that'll cover you for most purchases under £100 (under £30 in some places with outdated tech).

> under £30 in some places with outdated tech

under £30 with our brand new chip an pin machines too. I am supposed to make a load of calls this week to try and resolve it...

In some places more than that. I think my record with Android pay so far is around £180.

I traveled all over England this last year with a Chase Visa. No problem the majority of places, but definitely a few places that were inconvenienced by having to pull a signature pad out from under a pile of stuff because no one's used it in months, and a few places that asked me to just pay in cash. I would expect London itself to see enough foreign traffic to be more accepting in this regard, though.

> Normally, I pay for everything with American Express. Would you recommend I get a different card for London? I wonder if there's a US card that support chip and pin?

Amex isn't as widely accepted outside the US. If you have a Visa or Mastercard, bring that.

Almost all credit cards issued in the US now support EMV chips. They almost never support PINs, but that doesn't actually matter because all merchants are required to be able to accept all three.

I've traveled all over the world, and never once has this been an issue. Nobody's even batted an eyelid when I give them a US-issued card. Except, of course, for places which only accept cash, but that's a separate question.

Get an ATM card and take cash out of a machine when you get to London. Seriously, this works well, you get a fair exchange rate, and most places still take cash.

But it is easier to use plastic in the Tube, as others have said.

Honestly, if you have a Visa/Mastercard with no foreign transaction fees then just use Apple Pay/Samsung Pay. It's almost ubiquitously used in the UK, and would be very rare to find somewhere that didn't take it.

If your phone supports it, a lot of places accept Apple Pay and Android Pay now. Just set them up with your card then pay contactlessly.

Of course you still have the problem that not eveywhere takes Amex, so getting a Visa is recommended too.

Credit cards in general are not too popular in Europe, they're either not accepted at all or only Visa and Mastercard are accepted. A Maestro debit card is your best bet and will work in almost all terminals in Europe.

This is not at all true of London. Last time I was there I didn’t even get local currency as I used credit for everything.

That is two different things.

Paying by card is very common in some countries (Northern Europe, France), paying by credit card is common in some (UK, Ireland), paying by cash is common in others (Germany).

It's not possible to generalize all of Europe for any of these, except to say that all EU/EEA countries have modern systems.

(For example, there are restaurants in Sweden that don't take cash, and restaurants in Germany that don't take any cards, restaurants in Denmark that charge an extra 2% if you use a credit card rather than a debit card, and restaurants in Britain that happily accept the 5% it costs them to accept AmEx.)

Which bit of Europe do you mean? I live in Europe and almost always use card.

All stores still accept signature payments. Although not everywhere accepts AMEX due to the higher merchant fees.

Make sure the back of your card is signed, though, and make sure to sign your receipt the same way. I had more store clerks questioning my signature on a 1 week trip to London than in a decade of using a CC in the US.

Not necessarily — you might have trouble buying a laptop or phone without a PIN, for example.

(It may be possible, but require the manager's discretion or authorization.)

I rarely use chip and pin any more. Contactless is everywhere. The UK is the most advanced in this regard, though.

Contactless is useless for fuel unless you top up with over half a tank remaining. ApplePay / Google Pay work sometimes, but retailers put arbitrary limits on despite payment being authenticated (Pay for my £60 weekly shop in the store but maximum £30 in the petrol station, Sainsburys? I didn't bring my wallet, looks like I'm coming back. Thanks for that.)

Is the UK most advanced? In Australia they can pay for anything up to $100 with tap. Over $100, they can still tap, but then need to enter their PIN into the terminal (i.e. no need to insert the card for PIN entry – a tap is sufficient). We don't have that in the UK.

Similar in Poland. You can always tap and then it asks for PIN or it doesn't. I expect this decision is based on the amount of the purchase and maybe some other factors.

I don't think having a higher limit makes anything more advanced. I'm fine with having a lower limit for cards, and then switching to Apple/Samsung/Google Pay for higher priced transactions.

Most advanced in Europe maybe. I rarely use anything but contactless in the UK (where I live), but often find no option for contactless elsewhere in Europe. I've never had to swipe and sign anywhere in my whole life, though.

This is how it works in the Netherlands as well, but below €25.

AFAIK chip and pin shifts liability for fraud onto the credit customer. While banks may be more than eager to do so, they may also be wary of a customer backlash over this.

In the UK the law remains what it always was - the customer is not liable unless they enabled the fraud. (I'm right now in the process of getting my card replaced after fraudulent charges that I can only assume were put through as though they were chip and pin). In the early days there was a concern that the courts would believe that chip and pin proved the customer was responsible (i.e. that the mere fact of a successful transaction with chip and pin technology necessarily proved the customer had told the fraudster their pin), but it seems fair to say the reality of chip and pin fraud has set in now.

> In the early days there was a concern that the courts would believe that chip and pin proved the customer was responsible (i.e. that the mere fact of a successful transaction with chip and pin technology necessarily proved the customer had told the fraudster their pin), but it seems fair to say the reality of chip and pin fraud has set in now.

This actually was true across Europe for the first few years when EMV chips were rolled out. It took some time before they passed a law which absolved customers of liability for fraud processed as EMV transactions.

There are well-documented cases where liability had been shifted to the customer, and which was only reversed through there being evidence that is not normally available in these cases:

"In one disputed transaction case we assisted in, the customer had his card stolen while on holiday, and then used in an EMV transaction. The issuer refused to refund this customer on the basis that their records showed the PIN was used. Luckily, the customer managed to obtain the merchant receipts, and these contained the TVR. This indicated that the PIN was not used, and the merchant opted to fall back to signature. We decoded the TVR and informed the customer, who was then able to get a refund. Other customers are less fortunate: it is unusual for the TVR to be included on the receipt, and often the merchant receipt has been destroyed by the time the dispute is being considered."


The law may always have been that the customer is not liable unless they enabled the fraud, but I hope the rules of evidence and/or practices of dispute resolution have changed so that the infallibility of the system is no longer tacitly assumed.

Not sure where this is coming from but this is definitely NOT the case in Canada or in Europe.

Not in Europe.

> ...except card fraud lossed are recharged to the merchant so perhaps they don't care?

For a long time after EMV chips were introduced, the liability was actually shifted back to the customer. EMV chips were initially a huge step backwards for customer protection, and it took some years before this was fixed in law across Europe.

Nowadays, if you see a merchant who can't accept EMV chips, it's likely their POS vendor who's liable. The merchant is liable in theory, but some vendors still don't provide EMV-capable terminals, so they've agreed to assume the risk until they do.

Also, I believe contactless is something the US is behind on too

I found it odd that Mastercard would say "[...] it has been wanting to make the change for years, but held off until cards embedded with computer chips became common."

Whose responsibility is it to make those cards more common, if not Mastercard's?

In Sweden, cards have only been issued with chips since the early 2000s, and consequently merchants only very rarely use signature purchases. Why they didn't push this sooner in the US is a riddle wrappen in a mystery...

The only place I've seen signatures used recently around here have been in busy bars/nightclubs, where stressed-out bartenders don't want to wait for online validation. I guess they get few enough fraud attempts at cocktails that they don't care too much about validation.

> Whose responsibility is it to make those cards more common, if not Mastercard's?

The issuers. Of course, Mastercard has some influence over them... But they certainly can't unilaterally dictate conditions to them beyond whatever contract they signed.

There's also the fact that, even if issuers handed them out, the machines and merchant processors also have to support them. Which was something that still hasn't completely happened in the US, even with the networks pushing as hard as they could. (Moving fraud liability to the merchants is about the biggest move they could make.)

I'd wager it's less an issue of the cards being commonplace, but instead the card readers and processing companies. I still regularly encounter stores which either don't have a card reader that can accept a chip, or there's a sign indicating that it's not enabled yet.

It might be that non-chip CCs had long expiry dates and only now they're being replaced?

This is not a new situation...

I was involved with Australia's chip-and-pin switch in 2006. At the time, we were amazed how slow USA was getting rid of magstripe cards and signatures. And that was 12 years ago...

Signatures haven't been required for credit cards in many other countries for quite some time now.

I have often wondered why the US has historically lagged behind for everyday banking. (e.g. email money transfers, chip enabled cards, pin number verification, tap to pay)

The FT suggests this is a regulation vs competition problem, where regulation has "won": https://www.ft.com/content/03a1f4b0-06d3-11e4-ba32-00144feab...

It's a bit of a prisoners-dilemma thing: new technology can only be adopted with sufficient coordination, but each individual party is only interested in cooperating if they think they will "win" from it more than their competitors.

The US seems to be a very bad place for consumer advocacy in general. Perhaps it's seen as "anticapitalist". I don't know if the patchwork regulatory environment of the states helps or hinders this?

I don’t know, Australia’s got only four banks which dominate the market and yet they are pretty aggressive in innovative products. We just got instant bank transfers and that required cooperation amongst them to adopt standards and protocols.

To me, the culture of Australia has always been that being clever and helpful trumps being richer or beating the other guy. So there is value in companies being known as offering clever, helpful solutions.

In the US it's almost exclusively about beating the other guy.

This seems believable to me.

I mean, in tech, look at the HTTP "referer" header, which is spelled wrong. Imagine what a hassle it would be to fix that.

If there was a Leviathan that could force every vendor and user to eliminate the old spelling or else, it could get done a lot faster.

DK never even had credit card signatures. Our systems support it for foreigners, but I was so confused the first time I saw that.

Everyone uses NFC credit cards now (and if the amount is over ~$40 or a daily limit has been reached, with pin).

For us, chip and pin is basically deprecated, and no one has used magnetic strips in a decade.

In Sweden, signatures are available opt-in, but many stores get confused if you press the button for it.

–"The system says 'signature needed', was that intentional?"

It _is_ practical though, if you forget your pin code and need to pay something.

It used to be very common in bars/clubs too, at least before contact-free cards, to speed up the payments.

In the UK, I don't think you can opt to sign instead of enter a PIN if it's a PIN terminal and your card has a PIN set. Only if it doesn't have a PIN (as with American cards) will it then automatically ask for a signature. Isn't allowing the user to opt to just bypass the PIN a bit of a security hole?

There are a handful of places in the UK that don't have PIN terminals at all and do classic swipe-and-sign transactions, though. The one I encounter most commonly is the onboard cafe car on Great Western Railway trains.

> Isn't allowing the user to opt to just bypass the PIN a bit of a security hole?

That's a valid point of view, but I actually believe that the business is taking (the bulk of) the risk. In case of a chargeback, the business has to prove that I made the purchase, and a PIN is better evidence that I actually made it compared to just a signature.

This means that businesses might accept signature only for relatively low amounts. Indeed, it's not uncommon that neither is needed for amounts under a couple of lunches or so, to make lunch queues quicker. I assume the throughput is sometimes worth the risk.

I don't if that's even possible here in France. At least I've never see anything that hint it's the case.

because legacy tech wants to be amortised over long time periods. If you start implementing things later you can pick the best tech. US banking was among the first to become digital and thus still has to maintain technical choices of the past

The UK were the first in the world to have ATMs, so there is plenty of ageing infrastructure in the UK. But the banks were forced (partly by the EU and partly by fraud) to move to chip and pin and they did relatively quickly.

The resistance to change can be explained much simpler:

It benefits only consumers, while costing the banks and payment providers. It's the same excuses for still having critical banking infrastructure written in COBOL.

> It benefits only consumers, while costing the banks and payment providers

Hogwash. Yes I know all bankers live in extinct volcanoes but one thing they know a lot about is money. It is ridiculously expensive to support the US's conservatism when it comes to finance. The lack of chip and pin pales into insignificance compared to their addiction to paper checks, for example.

It would be completely in the banks' interests if everyone moved to internet banking, NFC cards etc because the running costs and fraud costs are vastly less. The problem is all those pesky, inertia-laden customers.

> The lack of chip and pin pales into insignificance compared to their addiction to paper checks, for example.

Paper checks are indeed a silly cost, but NFC provides banks no gain over chip. Chip provides gain over magnet stripe by basically rendering skimmers ineffective, but only basically in that credit card fraud is still a big business. Instead of skimmers, you use trojans or data leaks. Physical credit cards also sell very cheap on the black market.

In other words, NFC benefits only consumers, not banks. Chip benefits banks a little bit.

> if everyone moved to internet banking, NFC cards etc

Those are very different things. Internet banking benefits banks directly because they can shut down local branches and screw over customers (which they do here—I have to drive to a different city to insert cash, and can only do so within very limited hours).

NFC has no benefit to them (and might slightly increase fraud that the bank will have to cover by allowing ~$40 withdrawals made wirelessly from quite a far distance). Chip presents a pretty tiny benefit to them.

And most certainly, if you have a customer that already use a magnet stripe credit card, giving them an NFC card will result in instant adoption of the feature. We had some statistics when the feature rolled out—it was adopted by everyone with a supported card on the spot. It's much different when you're trying to change a check user to be a credit card user, but that might be more of an issue with the consumer experience with the bank—credit and debit cards over there sound so cumbersome compared to our system where the bank issues both credit and debit cards tied to your account. We don't have the "benefit" card mess.

It's a bit too easy to blame user inertia.

The benefit of NFC for banks would be an image and PR boost, the bank could say that they are the hip and trendy bank, come to us. Then other banks would have to follow eventually.

Why else would banks in europe adopt NFC or contactless payments?

I am only speaking for a single EU country here. In DK, features such as NFC are released for all banks simultaneously (that is, fully implemented and functioning) through the national payment provider, who is also the issuer for our national credit card type (which is a dual-type card by also being a VISA for international use, and is tied directly to a bank account). I don't think they have a choice, and they certainly gain no PR or image from it.

Now, the national payment provider (a private company) does it because they earn money on terminals, and want to fight to stay relevant in a world of emerging mobile payment solutions such as MobilePay (a Danish mobile payment solution of which over half the population are users).

The only exception to this rule appears to be Apple Pay, which is implemented by some individual banks. I am not sure if this is due to platform differences, or whether it is just the national payment provider fighting back. I'd suspect the latter, as Apply Pay just see our dual-type credit cards as VISA, sending them transaction fees that the national payment provider lose out on.

Other than that, banks here are only differentiated based on their financial solutions, and maybe in some rare cases by their mobile/internet banking solution (all have feature complete variants, but some are nicer than others).

Seems like NFC benefits banks just as much as chips then. That's not nothing.

Yes, chip provides an almost negligible benefit over magnet stripe, and for the bank, NFC provides the exact same benefits as chip.

My point was that NFC provides no benefit over chip.

They can offer a more convenient payment method.

Apple pay and Samsung pay have contact free payments, and it's also more secure than signatures.

But as new payment infrastructure is expensive they will just move if they have to. Perhaps too slow, as their competitor are gnawing at their profit margins.

Also due to some ODD ideas about banks by some of the founders you have not got the nationwide consolidation you did in the EU - the federal nature and relatively weak central government doesn't help either.

With a small number of banks and a stronger central government which can exert pressure you can see why the UK and EU are ahead.

In Canada I have not signed for a credit card transaction in years. Everything is tap to pay and chip-and-pin for larger amounts. Extremely convenient.

When I go to the U.S. I usually have to produce ID when using my credit card. Is this because I am from out of country or do they do this with everyone paying by credit card?

It's because you're from out of country. You'll almost never be asked to produce ID with a standard credit card purchase in the US, unless it's unusual in amount.

I'm in my late 30s and have never once been asked to produce proof of ID in relation to a standard credit card purchase. Whether at a grocery store, restaurant, etc. I've never seen anyone else have to show ID either, maybe once in the 1980s.

I write “please check ID” on the back of all my cards.

I’m astonished when someone actually does check my ID.

It happens maybe once or twice a year.

I've been doing this for 2 decades. I once had a surreal experience when one store clerk in the US complained that my signature did not match the one in the back of the card. My pleas of "that's not a signature, it's a request to check my ID, which you haven't done" did not move him so I had to request his manager's presence.

It only happened once and that was many (15+) years ago, but if you ever wondered if it could happen, yeah it could. :)

I have both my signature (because it's required for the card to be valid) and "See ID" on the back of my card. I get asked for my ID about half of the time or so. It's rare to be asked at restaurants, but retailers are pretty good at checking.

I've always thought the signature was security theater, asking for a photo ID is way better from a security standpoint.

I do this, and I was very confused to find out that if you try to do this at some government buildings (post office for me) they will completely reject your card and not let you use it.

It's especially a mystery because even developments in payments from the US (eg Apple Pay) seem more widely adopted where I am (Aus) than in the US.

Anyone with some insight as to why want to chip in?

In the US, the biggest adopters of Apple Pay have been big chain grocery, drug, convenience, etc. stores. For decades, there has been a (somewhat class-based) stigma about holding up the line in these kinds of places by paying with check, government benefits, coins, coupons, or anything else besides cash and credit.

There's also a separate, arguably more deserved stigma about entitled people causing trouble by using unnecessary technology.

These together, along with a reluctance to cause trouble for low-wage clerks, make people reluctant to risk holding up the line by using Apple Pay.

That means fewer people even try Apple Pay, so fewer other businesses see the need to make it available.


In my experience Apple Pay is faster than other payment methods.

In what way do you see it as slower?

It might be faster if it works. If you try it and it doesn’t work and the cashier tries to help and then you have to go back to using a credit card anyway, it’s slow and people get annoyed.

If that reliably didn’t happen, things would be fine. Unfortunately, payment processing in the US (or at least in Maryland where I live) is a mess:

- Point-of-sale devices are frequently broken, with post-it notes taped over the chip slot saying “CHIP READER DISABLED”. I’ve dealt with buggy readers that force you to swipe, then go “Oh that’s a chip card, insert it!”, then when you insert it they go “Chip not supported, reverting to swipe as a backup method”. We’re struggling enough with the basics.

- I’ve seen stores that put a “We accept ApplePay” sign in their window, but when you go in, it’s a gamble as to whether all the dependencies from the reader to the network to the payment processors are working today. When I’ve asked cashiers, their responses range from a despondent “I just don’t know anymore” to a cautious “We have it but I haven’t seen anyone use it in a while.”

- Complicating all of this is the fact that all of the POS devices in my area look identical, whether they support NFC payments or not. I have a hunch that the hardware vendor just ships NFC-capable units to everyone, but only turns them on in certain conditions (maybe related to the type of contract the merchant has?)

If anyone has plumbed the depths of this issue and can explain what’s going on, I’d appreciate it.

The most bizarre one is at a Subway I go to once in a while: they have signs all over saying they accept Android Pay, but when I go to use it the phone vibrates like it worked but the terminal replies "insert chip," or maybe it's "chip required." The cashiers claim it works for other people though. I tried it several times over a year just to see if it was a one-off error, but it always did the same.

I really like Android Pay/mobile payments when they work, the only problem is, I stopped really using it because the success rate is so low. The card readers seem like they aren't that strong, have difficulty sensing the phone, and when it does sense it there seems like a lot of weirdness/try agains. I tried to use it once at a vending machine and I just couldn't figure the thing out, the payment went through but when I selected something nothing happened. Credit card worked fine though.

It was so unimportant when I got a new phone I ended up getting one without NFC.

Oh, I'm pretty sure the “CHIP READER DISABLED” thing is just the merchant didn't set up their account with chip enabled, not any problem with the hardware itself.

> I'm pretty sure the “CHIP READER DISABLED” thing is just the merchant didn't set up their account with chip enabled.

It’s generally the fault of the POS software. In many (most?) cases, enabling EMV on the terminal requires the use of a new API. The POS software has to write code to support EMV.

your cards themselves can disallow contactless payment when a chip reader is present. Discover did this to me when they sent me a chip card - I had been using my discover card contactless for a while with android pay, and all of a sudden it stopped working on all new terminals and started saying "insert chip", assuming the terminal had a chip reader in it. I switched to using my visa card with google pay and it continues to work mostly everywhere, even though I have a chip in my visa card as well.

I find I only use google pay when I'm not in a hurry or when I'm very familiar with the specific reader and it has a long track record of working. If I go somewhere new, I always use my card unless I have time and the store isn't busy.

Exactly. If I'm in the grocery store, I know that I can take my credit card out of my wallet, insert it into the machine (or swipe it), maybe scrawl a wiggly line, and remove the card all in about 10 seconds. Alternatively, I can fiddle with my phone, get it to recognize me, hope it works, etc. which--even if it doesn't always take longer--is certainly less deterministic while the person behind me is probably going through their own version of the internal sigh I have when the person in front of me is fiddling with some non-routine payment method.

About the only time I use Apple Pay is when I'm traveling to Europe because it tends to work faster than when I have to do the non-standard (for there) chip and signature.

> Alternatively, I can fiddle with my phone, get it to recognize me, hope it works, etc. which--even if it doesn't always take longer--is certainly less deterministic while the person behind me is probably going through their own version of the internal sigh I have when the person in front of me is fiddling with some non-routine payment method.

I don't recognise this at all.

Pull phone out of pocket, touch the fingerprint reader to unlock it, wave it at the reader.


That's quicker than getting my card out of my wallet, let alone swiping and then signing something.

Pull phone out of pocket, touch the reader, nothing happens.

Theory 1: I’m not touching the reader in the right place. Maybe the sensor is on this side or that. Try hovering the phone all over the POS box.

Theory 2: Maybe my phone is not working. Try waving it around again while cashier has this “get your shit together” look on his face. Pull out CC.

Theory 3: The reader supports NFC but not ApplePay, so now I’ve wasted my time. Pull out CC.

Theory 4: Its not even a NFC reader (because there seems to be no standard way of telling by just looking at them). So, now I’ve wasted my time. Pull out CC.

Or the arbitrary transaction limit is set to less than the amount I owe.

At least domestically, I find credit cards almost always straightforward while Apple Pay is hit or miss having the line behind me giving me dirty looks because the entitled tech shit is holding up checkout playing with their gadget.

Never had any of this happen, it's quicker and easier than even using contactless credit cards for me. And it's becoming really commonplace in the UK.

1) You've never unlocked your phone before? How weird.

2) How broken is your phone? Never had this issue (I use android pay multiple times per day)

3) This is unusual, to the point of not being a thing here - Applepay is compatible with contactless EMV, as is Android Pay and there's basically nothing to be done at the merchant end to support it.

4) Of course there's a way to tell, they all have the four lights at the top, either physically or on-screen, plus there's the contactless logo the display on-screen.

These imagined impediments are hilarious though, you should have a sketch show.

I use android pay when it's available in the US, but the first time you encounter any specific reader, there's a learning curve. By "reader", it should be obvious we mean the reader that is in the store that you tap your phone or slide your card into, not the fingerprint reader on your phone.

Most of them look like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payment_terminal#/media/File:P... and will occasionally have a contactless payment icon or an apple/android pay logo on the screen when you walk up to it. In the case of this card reader, the NFC point is at the bottom of the screen and you basically have to rub your phone on the screen to get it to read.

Sometimes they look like this one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/14128014654 but that big pad at the top is a lie - those have never actually worked and if there's not a sign on it, the cashier will tell you it's "broken".

The rest of them look like this: https://twitter.com/dionlisle/status/768124197549723648 and there's no clear indication or consistency where the NFC contact point is, or it is also a lie and you shouldn't even bother.

I'd say about half of my credit card transactions these days involve me handing a card to someone who swipes it directly into the register - there's no way to possibly use NFC or enter a PIN for debit/etc.

The readers should all have the four lights, like your middle link. Either physical LEDs or on-screen graphics, and that's where you aim.

That last Ingenico is, IMHO, very poorly designed as it hides them.

In the UK (for instance) they almost all look like this one with virtual LEDs on screen -


or this -


The NFC area is consistently at the top, and is consistently visible. If the standards aren't being followed in the US reader market then clearly that's not going to help anyone, but it's just more evidence that the US credit card technology market is outdated and a very weird outlier.

Don’t know what else to say besides “Come on over to the US and see for yourself.” We are in the stone age when it comes to payment processing.

As for the POS devices looking identical:

I've worked for a large retailer who has purchased a sizable number of verifone devices (hundreds of thousands). The devices do have NFC-enabled readers in them to support Apple Pay, however, the contract that the retailer has with Verifone specifically says that Apple Pay is disabled: The retailer does not want to pay for the development cost for enabling Apple Pay in their Point of Sales stack.

It's a great add-on for Verifone: A couple of bits get flipped in fipay and in their backend and boom: Apple Pay (as long as the payment processors support it).

It's not without problems in Aus as well - Only 1 out of our 'Big Four' banks actually accepts it. I suppose it's a bad example.

However 'Tap and go' is so widely adopted that I haven't carried cash in months and I know people that legitimately don't know their own PIN

Contactless payment is so widely adopted that it's given me no particular reason to use Google Pay or any other mobile payment system as they're not particularly better from just using my card...

Apple pay is way faster than the stupid chip on the card.

> ... chip in

Unintentional pun. The US public seems to have a huge reluctance to use the chips in the cards too. It's swipe and sign.

(I'm also from Australia and signing for a credit card purchase went away decades ago. PayWave is really popular, my 89 yo mother loves it.)

US here, got issued a chipped card about a year ago and noticed quickly that any attempt to swipe with my card would be greeted with an error message and instructions to insert the chip. For all systems I've seen, it seems that if the merchant accepts chips and if the card has a chip, the chip must be used, regardless of any user reluctance.

If it’s a chip card and the vendor doesn’t use the chip, then they are responsible for all fraudulent transactions.

If they do use the chip, then the card issuing bank is responsible for all fraudulent transactions.

This rule was supposed to go into place over a year ago. But most places couldn’t be bothered to update their equipment, so it had to be postponed.

Even now, many places still can’t be bothered. Makes me care about them just that much less.

Most readers I have experimented with in the US will allow a swipe after 3 unsuccesful chip reads (inserting card in opposite direction w/ chip exposed).

Also Australian used to using Paywave. I traveled through Europe in January. My card was accepted without issue in most countries. There were a few countries like Greece where I need to use Pin. Outlier was in the UK where I had to sign and show photo id, which I found strange.

> Outlier was in the UK where I had to sign and show photo id

How long ago was this? Signatures haven't been a thing here for well over a decade. Also is Paywave just contactless? Because we've also had contactless for a fair while.

January this year, had to sign twice once at a Restaurant near Earl's Court and once buying tickets for Tower of London.

Most chip readers in the US are incredibly slow. Like 10+ seconds just top read the card. There are faster authentication schemes that some of the readers use, but it's rare that using the chip is very fast, while swiping is always instant.

When I visited the US in late 2014, most places didn’t support contactless payments; a few did, but the operators didn’t necessarily know it, because basically no US cards supported it. I really confused a Subway employee near San Francisco by using it, and stopped to explain how it was that the transaction had gone through without him noticing.

Haha you got me!

Can anyone explain why credit cards are preferred in the US? In the Netherlands they're basically an obscurity, and I couldn't even pay for my groceries with one. We all have debit cards that charge directly from your bank here.

Just what does the CC system offer over debit?

For consumers, credit cards offer benefits, such as cash back, "point rewards" systems, and so on. The price is the same, credit or debit, so why not credit?

IMO, Most American got used to the life use the money in future. CC is the simplest way to loan money from the bank now, and pay it back in future. Meanwhile, the bank also like this, as lots of people wouldn't able to pay the debt on time with full balance, so they can make money from the interest.

US fraud rates are so low it's cheaper to eat the cost than to change the system. A more interesting question is: why are fraud rates so high elsewhere?

[The] U.S. the third-highest rate of fraud worldwide, and was the only country to remain in the top three from 2014 to 2016. Additional research from the Nilson Report, October 2016 stated that in 2015 alone, the U.S. accounted for 38.7 percent of the worldwide payment card fraud losses


It turns out that a signature on a bank check means nothing. Neither does the payer name on the check. Not the amount in cursive. Nor does the check paper.

The only things that are checked are the digits of the amount, and the account number.

The rest of the check can be complete garbage, and the check will go through and the bank will pay it. Then the banks will blame you, the account holder.

I learned this the hard way.

> The only things that are checked are the digits of the amount, and the account number.

Well, the payee is also usually verified to match the destination account, and a few other elements are technically required for it to be a legal financial instrument (even if banks don't spend the time to check them every time). Legally, a check could be written on the back of a napkin and still be valid - as long as it has a few required details.

The thing I've come to learn about checks is that their security features are not necessarily intended to prevent fraud, but rather to legally prove fraud after it has occurred. So no, banks often will not check those things, but anyone with access to the ACH network can reach into anyone's account and move funds around if fraud is suspected (it's basically a shared database with surprisingly little security). It inherently relies on the legal system to sort things out after the fact, which is a completely different approach from what we see in modern information security (where preventing unauthorized access/behavior upfront is the primary concern).

> It inherently relies on the legal system to sort things out after the fact, ...

This is why it’s critical to have transaction alerts for all activity for your financial accounts. Otherwise you could have an ACH slip through that drains your account. You wouldn’t notice till the next time you logged in or, more likely, when you try to use your debit card and realize it’s cleaned out.

On that note, also consider your daily transfer limit.

Often times banks will set these limits unnecessarily high ($10K is common). Alerts are a good way to spot the fraud, but limits cap how much they can take in the mean time. Even if you will ultimately get refunded, it could take months of a slow investigation before that occurs.

I have mine set to double the most we've ever spent in a single month, and I've only had to increase it once (vehicle downpayment).

that drains your account.

This is barely dangerous imo. Inconvenient perhaps but not dangerous. The reason being your bank will refund the money.

The dangerous ones are those that take tiny amounts monthly that you just won't notice.

> The dangerous ones are those that take tiny amounts monthly that you just won't notice.

Wait, what? How are you not going to notice? Every transaction is a line on your statement which, I think, all banks issue monthly.

Besides, if you have a computer, you can download all transactions (to Quicken or similar software) every day or two and verify all your new transactions. If you have a phone, Many banks and cards can even be set up to notify you on each transaction.

If there was fraud on my account I’d know instantly, at worst within two days.

Most statements (at least in the US) have very cryptic descriptions though. For example there might be an entry for EPC #008 for $2.95, and by deduction I can figure out that is the identifier for the coffee kiosk in the lobby of my building, but there is no way I would be be able to identify all transactions. Normally it doesn't really matter except for large transactions which I would remember. I can see a small fraudulent charge going unnoticed.

My bank's app sends a notification for every transaction. So normally, I pay, and seconds later my wrist buzzes and I can check the amount.

Thanks to this I caught a fraudulent online transaction for 1.2 million columbian pesos(?) and was able to block my card immediately after.

>>The only things that are checked are the digits of the amount, and the account number.

Ha! Not even that. In the cheque clearing process, about the only thing that ever gets checked (even by automated processes) is the MICR line (account/transit and institution number).

Everything else (EVERYTHING ELSE) is just assumed to match whatever the person entered at the ATM/image capture app/teller window. The bank considers it your problem, as the cheque writer, to catch any issues on your next statement, and then they'll review the image of the cheque (in many jurisdictions now, the physical cheque is destroyed pretty early in the process). You should really never ever give a cheque to someone you don't trust. It's pretty silly, but that's the reality.

Although, fun fact, it's the cursive amount that is the 'official' one if there's a mismatch between that and the digits, since it's much more difficult to subtly adjust that.

Source: work for an institution that processes literally millions of cheques (I'm not in that area, but yeah).

Came here to say this. The "spelled out" amount takes priority if there's a conflict in the two values.

Also worth noting, it doesn't need to be in cursive. I spent all my life struggling with writing in cursive on checks (because it's pretty much the only place I ever do it). One day, someone told me I could print it (it just never occurred to me that this was acceptable) and I've been much happier ever since (during the, you know, 10 times a year I actually write checks).

I'm down to 4 checks per year now. City and County taxes, twice per year. For some reason the local government still uses a credit card processor that adds 3% on top of whatever you pay, and when you're talking about property tax that's painful. The stamp is much cheaper.

I've been printing the amount for years now, as my cursive was never terribly legible to begin with and has decayed from lack of use. The whole point of that field is to make it so someone can't just add some zeros to the end of the value. Just write the value out and draw a line through the rest of the field.

Is this hyperbolic or do they actually add 3% on to your amount? If so that is just disgusting. I can understand it from ticketek or similar, but from a government body?

They are charged with collecting the given amount of tax, not the given amount minus a fee.

Better than my apartment building's utility provider (for water and such) -- any payment, even if you're being so direct as to be foolish by sending cash through the mail, incurs a 7% fee.

The government doesn't handle CC purchases directly, they hand it off to a third party. The third party passes on all of the CC overhead plus a bit for themselves to you. It's small government in action.

Yup! I worked for a property management company that was rolling out check scanning (X9 imaging, not ACH/ARC) to 150 locations. In every group that was rolled out there was inevitably at least one person that would scan a batch of checks and enter the amounts really incorrectly.

That has not been my experience. I've had multiple checks rejects for mis-matches between the written out line, and the numeric amount. I've also had checks deducted based on the written amount and the numeric amount ignored.

In the old days, they would print a computer-readable version of the amount on the bottom of the check, right-justified with the account number. Once that was there, most banks just processed that, and ignored the rest of the check.

That's not always true. I bought a car in 2012 and paid by check. Unfortunately I tranposed the cents amount for 89 and 98 in the two number fields. I got a call a few days later saying the check didn't clear because of the mismatch and that I needed to come back ASAP and write a new check with the proper amount in both fields.

For all intents your checking account is a locker full of money that’s unlocked for the taking. The check is nothing more than an archaic means of conveying your “locker number” to someone else’s bank. I highly recommend keeping your checking account balance as low as you can, and either disable overdraft protection on it or point the overdraft protection to a credit account.

The other info on the check isn’t meaningless. It will (should) be examined when there’s some kind of fraud or dispute about a check payment - but it effectively does nothing to prevent fraud or theft.

Where do you put your non-investment money then?

In a savings or share* account. Checks can't be written against this as far as I know.

* A share account is what they call it at a credit union.

You can still use ACH to pull money from savings account, but you’d need to get the number first.

Yeah, but given a checking account number you can often guess an associated saving account number, especially if you're familiar with the bank.

That figures. Well at least the number isn’t floating around out there. But unfortunately many CUs have just a single digit difference between accounts.

Don't have non-investment money? Investment accounts can hold treasury bills and short to intermediate term bonds and bond mutual funds. Your checking account just needs to hold enough money to pay a month's worth of bills or so.

This is untrue. The signature and the amount in cursive do matter, but not in the way most people think, they matter only after the fact. If a check is unsigned and someone cashes it then you can usually get that money back in small claims court, though not always. Or if the signature doesn't match on a check you can use that to convince your bank that the check is fraudulent. Also, if the amount that the check was cashed for differs from the amount written in cursive, again you have avenues of redress there including small claims court.

As you say, none of this will prevent basically any amount of money from being withdrawn from your account however. But you do absolutely have routes available to you to get your money back. If your bank blamed you instead and didn't let you know what options you had then you had a shitty bank that rolled you, you should get a new bank (or a credit union).

Back in the day, I had a case of the opposite problem: my check to the phone company got cashed for $89.89 rather than the $89.98 that was due, even though I had written both the digits and the spelled-out version of the number indisputably correctly. So PacBell decided to slap me with a $35 fee for not paying my balance off on time. The cancelled check that I had in hand clearly showed that the mistake wasn’t mine, and it also had been imprinted with the wrong amount at some processing step along the way. Needless to say both the bank and PacBell declined to take any responsibility, and it took a lot of time on the phone before getting a sympathetic rep who could reverse the fee “for goodwill“.

Surely this must not be a unique case; what’s supposed to happen in this sort of situation?

It amazes me that cheques are still used. I'm 36 and I've never issued a cheque, I think I was issued a cheque book with my first account but never used it.

I've been going back to written checks lately because of huge timewasting problems with electronic billpay systems - problems like the bank says they transmitted the money go talk to the vendor. The vendor says they never got it, go talk to the bank. Around and around and around.

In the past, I'd wave around the cancelled check and resolve it quickly. With ebanking, it's hours and hours on the phone and sitting in the bank manager's office refusing to leave until they deal with it.

With that particular one, I eventually made the bank issue a "clawback" on the funds they transmitted. Wonder of wonders, this caused the vendor to find the money they'd received :-)

Sorry to hear your woes. Most inter-bank transfers are settled within the hour here. Overnight at most. Hopefully your systems improve.

I've never had a problem with Bank of America bill pay in the decade plus of using them. Never had to write a check in my life or have a checkbook. You just put in the name and address of who you want to pay, the amount, and BoA mails a check to them.

The payments clearinghouse in USA is in need of an upgrade but no one wants to pay for it or suffer any downtime or errors. Waiting up to three days is the reason why Paypal/Venmo, credit cards, cash and wire transfers are still so popular but these fast options can carry hefty fees. e.g. Credit cards skim 2% of businesses' revenue, ATMs can charge $3, and wire transfers are 25USD. Banks also benefit from the liquidity problems that can result - it's another reason to apply for credit or leave a larger cash reserve on deposit.

I’m 29. I and many people I know have used checks several times over the past decade. It always surprises me when I read these stories on hn about how checks are dead, but this is not dissimilar to the mentality that self driving cars will be ready any day now.

Maybe this is how life is like in the Valley, but even so I doubt it’s the experience or thought process of the non-tech worker.

I just used a check this month to pay for my earnest money deposit for a house I’m buying. Before that, I’ve had to use either money order or personal check for the deposit and application fee of every apartment I’ve ever rented. Several landlords only accepted checks for the regular rent as well.

They weren’t slumlords (as some of the other commenters here assume), those who took only checks for rent were individuals who rented out a house or apartment building and took good care of it.

I’ve paid my gas bills with checks back when I lived with college roommates.

Checks aren’t as ubiquitous as they once were, but I remember in my life time, growing up, when they were ubiquitous.

I assume the person you are replying to is not American due to their spelling of "cheque."

The American banking system is still basically at the level of the horse and buggy. Inter-bank transfers are next to impossible.

Here in Australia, I can just give out my bank account number freely -- the worst you can do to me with that information is send me money.

Inter-bank (wire) transfers aren't that hard. You just need to ask your bank to do it. Sometimes you have to come in person to do it, sometimes a faxed signature is all you need. I've always been slightly nervous about how easy it is in fact, since anybody can forge a signature and send a fax.

The big caveat is that the Fed likes to sit on the transfer for a day or two, or sometimes more. Very annoying if you are on a deadline for the money.

Likewise in most if not all of Europe.

I _think_ you could set up a direct debit, for example: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7174760.stm although this was almost ten years ago, i think the protections are still the same.

FWIW, that's mostly a non-issue because of the Direct Debit guarantee:

> If an error is made in the payment of your Direct Debit, by the organisation or your bank or building society, you are entitled to a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society


I'll write a check if charged a fee not to write one. A few years back, I lived in an apartment building that added the 3% processing fee if you paid by credit card and 1% to pay electronically from your checking account. I'd write a check and just drop it off when walking through the lobby. (They eventually dropped the charge for one's checking account.)

The only check I routinely write now is to the gas company. They use Western Union as their payment processing vendor and WU charges $2.95. It's petty, but it's easy enough to write a check.

Over the past 6 years, literally the only thing I've used my checkbook for was security deposit and first month's rent.

But my last two apartments required cashier's checks for both... so honestly, I don't expect to write another check my whole life.

Landlords only want cashier's checks if they don't trust you. If they don't trust you, they're less likely to rent to you. So requiring cashier's checks is uncommon, barring some extenuating circumstance like you've previously written a bad check or been late.

As a landlord, I always request cash or cashiers check for move in money. I don't want you living there for 3 months for free while I fight your bad check through the court system to get you evicted.

It may sound shocking, but some people will do this. Source: me, landlord since 2001.

Why not a bank transfer?

Tenant: "Reverse this payment from 6 weeks ago."

Bank: "Why?"

Tenant: "Well my landlord [tale of woe]."

Bank: "So I'm hearing that the payment was unauthorized."

Tenant: "Yes!"

Bank: "Reversed."

Landlord: "... YOU DID WHAT?!"

Bank: "sigh We don't want to be in this discussion."

Landlord: "YOU HAD ONE JOB!"

Bank: "It's not sitting between two adults trying to figure which of them screwed the other. We've got courts for that. Good luck."

In the US, bank transfers are reversible? (Here in Germany, if you sent the money it's basically gone, you can only reverse payments that the other side "pulled" from your account) Always interesting how the types of service available and their rules shape what's used where.

Cashier's checks are frequently fraudulent. You've been lucky if they worked for you.

I use a credit card much more often these days, because the CC company takes fraud seriously. The banks don't. At least my bank did not.

>CC company takes fraud seriously.

On behalf of the cardholder they do. When a cardholder complains the card company just reverses the payment to the merchant in a 'chargeback', sometimes months later. Then the merchant has to appeal to get it back. So no the credit card companies don't care about fraud.

I would ask for cash...

Fair enough. My experience is I've been living in apartments for decades and never been asked for cash or cashier's checks.

I was always asked for the deposit in cashier's check form, and I had a credit rating over 800 and a steady high paying job. It's a real hassle when you're new to the area and don't have the bank account moved over. Luckily convenience stores will write them for you but they charge for it.

I'm 51 and the last time I used a cheque was 32 years ago, so go figure... direct debit bank cards became common here in about 1985.

In the US, they're still a pretty standard way for individuals to pay each other or to settle accounts with service people. I don't write a lot but it's how I would square up with someone for a weekend trip or pay for my housekeeper or furnace servicing. I also "write" checks through my online banking but don't do those by hand.

Some banks allow customers to send cheques/checks printed by the bank, even on a schedule. This makes it easy for the bank customer to routinely pay predictable bills or send someone money on a schedule without having to go through the hassle of setting up direct deposit to their bank account (which is needlessly difficult even transferring money across two customers of the same bank, or across two banks in the same country). But the paper sent is far too revealing. The amount of information printed is remarkably high in order to do something that should be considered routine by now. And cashing or depositing still requires physically depositing paper somewhere like a bank teller's station or some ATMs. Remarkably few places will accept a picture and conduct the transaction from information gleaned from the picture.

That seems like a overly complicated workaround. The solution is to make the electronic banking work properly! Seriously how can that be?

I'm 36 too but I've issued hundreds of checks... and also issued some indirectly (Bank of America's bill payments issue paper checks to companies when they don't accept electronic payments)

Fair warning, I used to work for the company that makes BofA’s bill pay product, and it can have a mind of its own. Even payments that should always be electronic will sometimes decide to mail checks for reasons that you’ll never a get a good explanation for.


Probably the big difference is that I live in New Zealand. We've had good electronic funds transfers systems for a long time.

They can be pretty handy. I don't have a physical checkbook and that causes problems for me once or twice a year. Typically when I am buying motorcycles. Those transactions tend to take place on weekends when my bank is closed and for amounts larger than my ATM cash withdrawal limit. They also tend to occur with parties that do not accept electronic payment methods.

I think the "parties not accepting electronic methods" bit is more surprising to people in places with more modern banking systems...

In Australia you can hardly buy anything anymore with ordinary cheques (you can still use a bank cheque for a car from a dealer or deposit on a house something, but that's the kind that you go to the bank, pay a fee and they print it out).

Hardly any private seller for a car or anything would ever take a cheque though - it's mostly always electronic. This year they're bringing in a real-time system (the current one is free overnight transfer to other banks and immediate for the same bank) which you can send people money immediately with just a mobile number.

The last motorcycle I bought I had to wait two days to go to a physical branch and get a (free!) cashiers check then go back to the shop to buy the bike. We made the deal on a Saturday and the guy asked for a check and I said "It's 2018, I don't have a checkbook" to which he chuckled but it wasn't clear what I would have used instead. Normally I would just carry cash but I don't make habit of holding on to that much cash. There are billpay methods I could use with my bank but they are not instant, anything instant would have cost something like 3% which on ~$5,000.00 is not feasible.

This is how it has always been (tm) here. It's interesting to hear about the glorious future that other countries have. How do you identify the account you are transferring to? I was technically interacting with a business, do they just give me a phone number/email and I use that?

I think my bank is working on a way to do instant transfers but I'm not sure how any of that works.

With BPay, you have a biller code (six character number) and a reference (which is longer, like 12 characters - usually this is like your customer number with that biller, so it doesn’t change). Generally every bill you get will have those details on them. It’s free which is nice.

For a regular transfer, you have a six digit number that identifies the bank/branch, and an account number (variable length, depends on branch). You just always use this method and your bank checks whether it’s a BSB at the same bank and does an instant transfer, and if not clears it through the central bank. I think batches run at 9am and 5pm every business day for that.

For those kind of payments, they’re bringing in two new things this year - a new real-time clearing system for small interbank transfers (that is, under like $100k or $250k or something - larger payments you have to use a special system called RTGS), and ‘PayID’ where you can have a mobile number for an individual or your Australian Business Number for a company, and I think internally it resolves back to the account number / BSB (I guess like a DNS system for banks).

Sounds like the case of a $5,000.00 motorcycle deal on Saturday afternoon still isn't handled "instantly" in the same way a check would be. At least not until the real-time system arrives.

I use checks (USA) for all my bills (including online payment they my bank where they mail the checks for me) because most places either do not accept credit cards or they charge an outrageous fee to accept credit. Lots of local businesses, especially contractors, cleaners, etc, either do not accept credit or highly resist it.

Do you still live with your parents or rent from a slum lord who only takes cash? Most landlords seem to only take cash or checks, it's really only the national apartment companies that take online payments.

I live in New Zealand. Everything is done by electronic fund transfers. I have been a renter, now I'm a landlord. I have also run businesses.

Here in Australia I'm not even sure if my real estate agent would accept a cheque for rent at all - I'm pretty sure they told us from the outset that electronic payment was the only option they offer.

Australia, pretty much everyone accepts BPay which is an online direct payment system or direct bank to bank transfers. These both take < 3 business days

Even waiting one day is pretty poor when it comes to funds transfer times, let alone three!

It's a significant burden on commerce, businesses, and individuals to be without their funds for that long. And a big win for greedy banks who boost their balance sheets and profits by holding all those "in transit" funds.

In the UK, the "Faster" payment system, introduced about 10 years ago, means that the vast majority of bank-to-bank funds transfers are completed instantly.

It'll be real-time with the New Payments Platform (NPP) being brought in this year.

BPay is only for bills and stuff - I'm sure my power company don't care that much that if I pay my bill on Friday night it doesn't clear until 9am on Monday morning... (it still counts as the bill being paid on Friday). It usually clears next day on business days anyway.

Also, the bank's balance sheets don't get a "boost" from holding payments. Deposits and other customer funds are strictly a liability to the bank (they owe them back to you), and they don't automatically get interest on them. So they don't have as much incentive as say a company does to pay invoices late to collect more interest.

What's fun is that last I looked the banks still didn't have any actual technology to support this feature. The rules they're obeying explain how the feature works for customers, but the implementation is left for them. And so their actual implementation is blind trust, settlement for the transactions happens at the old rate, hours or days later. The balance updates happen instantly for end users, but if any of the banks is engaged in fraud, that won't be detected until it's probably too late.

I expect this seems like a great cost-benefit trade, right up until a multi-billion fraud wipes out one of the banks, and then suddenly they'll be really excited about something better than "cross your fingers" as a resolution mechanic.

In the UK this was all done by bank standing order; the landlords didn't want the inconvenience of handling cheques either.

My landlord takes Chase Quick Pay, which is really nice.

It amazes me that one person thinks the environment they live in is how the entire rest of the world lives too.

I work for a UK business and we have had a number of queries from our bank because of an unrecognised signature on a cheque written from our account. So some banks in some places di check the signature

I had rented out my basement suite.

My renter's for 1.5 years wrote me cheques with payee of wrong first name, and typo in last name.

No issues depositing any

> The only things that are checked are the digits of the amount, and the account number.

YMMV. Simple won't let me deposit a check made out to "Me and Wife" in my personal account - I can only deposit it in our joint. They'll permit me to deposit "Me OR Wife".

I had a really negative issue with Simple: a garnishment (wasn't my garnishment -- there's someone with my same first and last name with the same birth date who has a different middle name) that was incorrectly applied to my account. When I presented Simple (and their controlling bank) notification from the garnishing agency that they had garnished the wrong account (and deposited the check from the garnishing state's treasury back into my account), Simple's response was...to garnish my account.

Suffice to say, I went back to my neighborhood bank.

To Simple's credit: Their customer support was beyond fantastic -- they were at the mercy of their controlling bank...who was receiving the garnishment request.

When Simple switched banks last year, I received a check in the mail for $3 and change for the amount that I had left in my account after moving my direct deposits and such over. Just...a massive headache.

Yeah, I'm really baffled as to why people write checks this way, I've schooled a few people on this - always write Person 1 OR Person 2, that way either of them can handle it the way that make most sense for them. Whenever I pointed out the issue with writing "and," I always get "oh, I didn't know that." To me that's obvious?

They are supposed to but only if your wife endorsed it too.

I suggested that approach, as well as having her file a support request authorizing it through her own Simple account. Apparently their parent bank's policies prevent both.

This was before they had the joint offering, so we had to request a new check. Now we just put stuff in the joint.

Fun fact. You can theoretically write a USA legal bank check on the back side of a napkin and it will be honored. As you point out, it just needs the correct bank routing number and account number.

As long as it's not fraudulent, it's all legal. But will a bank take it? That's an entirely different question.

Then why is MICR positioning such a pain? (I work with software that automates the check printing process)

Checks have many safeguards against fraud. "Catch me if you can" exploits have protection.

Most banks now have clauses allowing them to reject non-standard checks. Too many people writing “pay to the order of” on coconuts and pigs and other non-machine-readable items

I'd like to see a method to get MICR ink onto the side of a coconut.

Where are these people, in Ripley's Believe It or Not?

Probably people who believe that the payment they are making is unjust. Former scum landlord is charging you to repaint the walls because you "ruined them" when they were in fact pristine when you left, just because he doesn't want to foot the bill for finally getting rid of that 70s era mustard yellow color. You could fight it, but he has a lot more time for small claims court than you do, and you now live halfway across the country.

Just last November I miswrote a check where the digits and written amount differed, and it was processed for the written amount, which has traditionally been the controlling value.

I was taught to write the number as $400 23/100 One day about 3 years ago, all such checks started coming through as $4.00, and I wound up with late fees and such. Although the bank denied it, it was pretty obvious they'd just changed their OCR software. I now write the checks as $400.23

You weren't taught to write it as "Four-hundred and 23/100", and then "$400.23" in the little box?

I meant $400 23/100 in the little box on the right.

Never in my life seen a check written this way.

You are one of those people that makes some OCR software writer's job a nightmare.

I was taught that long before anyone even thought of OCR :-)

That's what I mean. Normalizing input from weakly defined fields is a nightmare. Every time you think you've gotten every edge case someone will come along and prove you wrong. And then your employer is mad at you because you didn't think anybody was still writing their checks with Roman Numerals or something.

Yeah, I once wrote my landlord a check and totally forgot to sign it. The bank cashed it just fine, I was surprised.

It also depends on the teller, how much of a hardass they are going to be about cashing it. I guess I don't know what the protocol is for for mobile deposit, they may or may not have manual review.

It does depend. I forgot to sign a check for my car registration last year and it got returned to me.

IIRC, back when I worked at Wells Fargo, they further audited a certain(7?) percent of the checks being processed.

>Then the banks will blame you, the account holder.

even in cases of fraud?

Yes. They said I'm obliged to audit the checks myself each month.

In what country do you live?

Is there more than one country that still uses checks?

Yes. They are still common in Brazil, for instance.

Common is a stretch compared to how common they are in the US. Banks in Brazil still give them to costumers, but I’ve never seen anyone use them. In the US, mailing checks around is a common occurrence.

A less oddly prescriptivist one than yours, apparently.

Yikes! Wake up call!

I had a bank tell me there was nothing they could do because I didn't notify them of a fraudulent transaction on my account within 90 days.

I didn't need 90 days to find a new bank. (A credit union, in fact.)

The time limit is 60 days. Obviously the sooner you report the better. Liability loss limit rises to $500 after just two days!

What happened next? Don’t want to try it.

I wouldn't accept their evasions and eventually they gave up and credited me.

I just want to take a moment, and tell you that you're wrong about what happens and what matters when a check is deposited (or cashed) and then cleared by the issuing account.

The courtesy amount is the digits. The legal amount is the written expression for dollars.

The legal amount matters, and had you taken your bank to court (if you didn't sign your legal rights over to arbitration), the legal amount prevails.

There are rooms full of people working minimum wage night jobs, to verify checks that have values in conflict with each other, associated documents, or are generally illegible. Something like 90% of checks are verified by OCR, and deposited for an amount often within a margin of $2.50 per deposit.

The remaining ten percent are processed by hand, balancing deposit to written amount, usually within the $2.50 same margin. This represents hours of checking transaction amounts for tens of thousands of transactions, as a fraction of the automated processing. The $2.50 is usually reviewed by managers in an end-of-day report.

For maybe a quarter of a million documents processed in one evening by a room full of around fifty people running OCR equipment (made by IBM and Unisys), and performing manual image review and physical document inspection, maybe 200 are kicked out by the machinery and software to be deciphered by hand.

Sometimes people get lazy, and are on the verge of quitting anyway because night jobs suck, and if you argued until you got your way, you were probably dealing with such a situation.

I took my new chip enabled CC to Germany 3 yrs ago and paid for a train ticket with it. The clerk said "ugh an American card" and had me sign some random piece of paper. I felt like an antique.

Most European cards use Chip & PIN with pin preference: If the terminal supports it the card will ask for a chip instead of a signature. Chip-based signature transactions are only used as fallback if the terminal doesn't support pins (which is very uncommon).

Unfortunately most US cards don't use a pin code at all. There are a few issuers that provide you with a pin code, but even in those cases there's typically a signature preference and the pin code is only used as fallback if the terminal doesn't support signatures. So if you're using a US card in Europe pretty much the only places where you can use the pin code are automated terminals (e.g., at train stations). At most other places you're going to have to use a signature.

There are a few US issuers that issue Chip & PIN cards with PIN preference - for example UNFCU and First Tech Credit Union. Those cards work great in Europe, but are sometimes a pain to use in the US. E.g., if you're paying at a restaurant and you have to go with the waiter to the terminal in some backroom, because the terminal asks for the pin. That's not an issue in Europe, as waiters usually carry mobile terminals with them.

> Those cards work great in Europe, but are sometimes a pain to use in the US. E.g., if you're paying at a restaurant and you have to go with the waiter to the terminal in some backroom, because the terminal asks for the pin.

Huh? I have a European card (chip & PIN, PIN preference), and at restaurants in the US I've always signed and never had to go to the terminal in some backroom.

> I have a European card (chip & PIN, PIN preference), and at restaurants in the US I've always signed and never had to go to the terminal in some backroom.

I had that a few times in Asia (think Vietnam). I quite appreciate the times it happened. Instead of taking my credit card then hoping for the best I specifically have to authorize the transaction. In Europe they usually just bring you a portable device.

Depends on the restaurant. Most of the times the terminal doesn't support PINs and so it falls back to signatures. But some restaurants use PIN-capable terminals in which case that issue occurs.

I've had a restaurant in silicon valley (three years ago?) tell me that they couldn't use my card because the machine kept asking for some number and they kept entering zeroes and it didn't work.

I think it also depends on what buttons they press. I believe if they select credit card it forces it to be a signature.

That's only for US debit cards where a debit transaction requires a PIN code, but a credit transaction prefers signatures. For credit cards with PIN preference it shouldn't make a difference, as it's up to the card to decide which mode to use (based on the options that are supported by the terminal).

I know some terminals here in the UK lie about their capabilities, for example they'll tell the card they're offline only even if they do support online transactions.

In Europe/UK they just bring the card machine to your table.

Yeah, When the pin first became popular in canada the technology was already wireless. They have a pretty good range too and i've never had a problem even on the largest of patios or the deepest corner of any underground hipster joint.

In Brazil wireless credit card terminals are also very common, and all I've seen use cell phone radios, so they work anywhere a cell phone from the same telco would work. Once in a while you still see the old wired terminals (which use wired phone lines), they are slower since they have to dial to the backend. And of course there are the terminals wired directly to a POS terminal (but places with these usually have wireless credit card terminals as a backup).

There are a few cards available in the US that do chip + PIN. Debit cards also work.

I have one credit card that I mostly don't use anymore, and keep the account open only because it does chip + PIN so I can use it at train-station kiosks in Europe.

The last time I had to sign when using my credit card was at least 20 years ago.

"The clerk said "ugh an American card" and had me sign some random piece of paper. I felt like an antique."

Don't feel so bad - remember that we invented the credit card.

Also the phone.

And the Internet.

These are mostly examples of inventions like the television that were not in practice some "out of the blue" discovery but instead a product of lots of small innovations at the same time. If the person who is usually acknowledged as "inventor" of these things had instead done something else they would anyway have come into use at about the same time but in a slightly different form and with some different person as inventor.

For your example of "the Internet" that's true only if you squint and choose TCP/IP as "the Internet". But if you take a step back the Network is a more or less an inevitability, I would insist on dating _that_ to at least the Treaty of Bern (1874) and perhaps earlier. Of course Bern moves actual paper letters, rather than just bits, but the central idea is there - the network effect, we must communicate with absolutely everybody, if we let national sovereignty get in the way of that we lose out.

The Egyptians invented metallurgy and several other things but I'm not sure they're leading anymore :)

Your argument looks a lot like a fallacy, to me.


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