Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Confusing Debit Cards (

After Tuesday's front-page Wall Street Journal article on debit cards, we were concerned that cardholders might not be familiar with the varied schemes employed by Visa® and MasterCard®. The card designs are increasingly more confusing and leading towards misidentifying PIN vs. Signature cards.

Just moments ago, a customer presented us at our retail photo center (30 Minute Photos Etc.) with one of the most disingenuous debit card designs yet. The word "debit" was nearly invisible and imprinted within the hologram. That trick is something we have been familiar with, but it was the other placement that elevated our dismay. The word "debit" was vertically imprinted on the center on the left side of the card in tiny lettering and in black which was nearly indistinguishable from the other graphics on the card.

Why is this so important?

The card associations are encouraging consumers to use debit cards, which instantly deduct funds from their bank account, but then use creative marketing and card designs to force merchants to accept the electronic payments at the much higher percent-of-sale rates. The banks' risk is limited; they receive immediate payment, yet charge U.S. merchants what amounts to among the highest interchange rates in the world.

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