Flat Debit Cards and Other Conveniences | CreditShout

Flat Debit Cards and Other Conveniences

By Dawn Allcot / June 10, 2010


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Have you ever lost your debit card? I lost mine — less than a week before my honeymoon in 2003. In the midst of “bride-mania,” compounded because we were traveling from New York for a wedding on Daytona Beach, my debit card disappeared.

I called my bank in a panic, put a stop on the card (theft or bank account fraud was the last thing I wanted to think about at that point) and asked how quickly they could send me a new one. The answer? Seven to 10 business days — including shipping.

If I paid a $45 rush fee, they’d overnight the card to me after it was created, and it would probably arrive within five days. Probably. So I paid the fee. When you’re planning a wedding, you’re used to spending like a rock star, anyway, and what’s another $45 when you’ve just shelled out $500 for flowers that will be dead before you get home from the honeymoon or $1,000 for a dress you’ll never wear again?

I still had no guarantee the card would arrive in time, but it did. I was extremely fortunate, but those five days were filled with stress I didn’t need.

2010 and Debit Cards on Demand

Fast-forward to 2010 and T.D. Bank has introduced “flat” debit cards. That is, debit cards without raised numbers. Your account number is simply printed on the front of the card along with your name and the bank’s logo.

The benefit? They can be created, according to the bank, in just five minutes in any one of the bank’s 1,000 branches. Whether you lost your card, had it stolen, or have just opened a new account, you can be spending money with your new debit card faster than you can say “clearance sale.”

I like it.

Drawbacks to Flat Debit Cards?

I have only a few misgivings about new flat debit cards. Credit card companies often send you offers in the mail with “fake” credit cards with flat numbers, to entice you to apply for their card and get a real one you can use. Some of these cards even have your name printed on them. I immediately shred them. But I’m afraid at first glance if I saw a flat card in my wallet or lying on my counter, I’d shred it thinking it was another piece of junk mail. (These are the things a woman who would lose her debit card before her wedding has to worry about…and may not be a concern for most people!)

Another concern that crossed my mind is whether or not these cards are easier to counterfeit. Considering that thieves can shop over the Internet and never even have a debit card in their possession, I suspect it shouldn’t be cause for concern. I can’t find any evidence online of flat cards being easier to counterfeit, and, if they are, hologram technology can change that easily.

The final drawback is if you encounter one of the “old-fashioned” carbon paper credit card machines, which takes an imprint of the raised name and account number on a credit card. Since it’s perfectly acceptable for a merchant to simply write down the name and credit card number, this shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem, either.

In all, I see a lot of benefits and very few drawbacks to this wave of the future: flat debit cards.

What’s Next for Debit Cards?

Flat debit cards are already available at T.D. Bank and we can expect other banks to follow suit. But here are a few other conveniences I’d like to see in my debit and credit cards:

  • integrated cards, where all the information for all my credit and debit cards is contained on one “smart card.”
  • smaller credit cards — like keyfobs I can carry on my keyring
  • the ability to use my smartphone as my credit or debit card
  • the rewards points I earned for a transaction printed right on my receipt, along with a running total of rewards points

What do you think? What else do you think banks and debit card issuers could do with our cards to make life more convenient? Share your ideas for debit cards below.

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