Third Time’s a Charm for My Debit Card?

Soon, I’ll be receiving my third new debit card of 2014.

Yes, that’s right. Numero tres. The second due to my number being used for a fake debit card in another state.

Ever since Bob Dole blew my burgeoning adult mind with the idea that I could one day pay for things out of my checking account without a check, I’ve been a debit card user. In my days of youthful folly, I used my overdraft protection frequently. In my recovery from living beyond my means, my debit card has gotten a significant workout because I know I can’t be trusted to pay a credit card balance in full every month and I try to pay “cash” for everything.

But now I’m reconsidering this move, since I’ve had to replace my card so often. Earlier this year, my bank called me to report a small charge, typically used by data thieves to see if the bank will flag the card. Then because I’d used my card at Target, the bank sent me another card. Yesterday, I got the dreaded voicemail from Santander fraud protection.

It’s a monumental hassle in so many ways that this keeps happening. I pay for myriad bills through my debit card, including things like Birchbox or the New York Times. There are so many things I don’t even know I use the card for until my inbox is filled with notices that an attempted payment has failed. Then there’s the fact that it takes Santander more than a week to mail the new card to me. If I want to get cash outside of banking hours during that time, I have to pay Visa’s exorbitant rates for cash advances on my credit card.

It is absurd to me that banks are dragging their feet to use the type of debit cards that are less easily hacked. These cards are in wide use throughout Europe with largely positive results, but US banks aren’t going to roll out the new cards because the cost of the technology is as much as 10 times the cost of a card with a magnetic stripe.

The customer service rep I spoke to this week was lovely, and helpfully suggested that the cause of my repeated security issues was due to somewhere where I use the card. It’s a herculean task. I buy coffee from a slew of different shops. My lunch spots vary. I had the card to servers regularly. I buy gas every few weeks. I use strange ATMs. How the hell am I supposed to narrow it down? The banking industry encouraged me to conduct my transactions this way. Now it’s my fault their security is subpar?

One of these days, I’ll go through my bank statements to see where I used the card before both times I was compromised, since it’s likely my card is being skimmed. And then I will break the fingers of the punk who’s causing me this hassle. Until then, I guess it’s time to start hiding cash under my mattress.


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