John Mayleben Blog

New look for credit cards more than a fancy facelift

by ... Bob Negen David Coleman Dianna Stampfler Ed Borowsky Elissa Hillary James P. Hallan Jennifer Cherry John Mayleben Ken Seawell Scott Watkins Steve Flaster Tom Borg Tom Scott

What is happening to credit and debit cards?

After many years of forcing banks to adhere to standard formats for designing cards, the card brands (Visa, MasterCard) have loosened up on their requirements. This has allowed issuing banks to get a little more creative in the way they design the “look” of a card.

If you accept cards though, the changes can be more than just cosmetic.

visa_vertical_cardFirst, Visa now allows a card to be printed vertically (portrait) instead of the more traditional horizontal (landscape) orientation. While this by itself is cause for little more than a minor discussion about design, another change has a significant impact on merchants who accept cards.

That’s because Visa also allows an issuing bank to laser print the cardholder name and information on the front of the card. If you, as a merchant, use an old style imprinter (aka, “knuckle buster” or “zip zap” machine), you will not be able to accept these cards without handwriting the card information.

Similarly, if the magnetic stripe is damaged and you have to hand key the card information into your electronic terminal, you will not be able to complete the manual imprinter slip properly. While you will still be able to get an authorization code in either of these two scenarios, the failure to collect an “imprint” of the card information opens you up to a possible chargeback, which you will lose every time.

Since these non-embossed cards do not allow for manual imprinting, businesses without terminals, or with cards that can’t be swiped, should ask the consumer for another form of payment. In these cases the cardholder will probably not understand why the card is being refused. The cardholder should be directed to the issuing bank to get a replacement card. The bank’s phone number is located on the back of the card.

The other change that has been happening slowly over the last few years is the migration of the hologram to the back of the card. The hologram is an important fraud protection device on each card.

In the past, the card brand hologram was located along the line of the account number so that the number was embossed right through the hologram as a way to deter counterfeiting of the cards. With the changes noted above, this is no longer needed, but the card hologram still serves as a way to make counterfeiting harder.

As always, businesses that process through MRA should call our customer service department with any questions brought on by the new-look cards.

John Mayleben is Michigan Retailers Association senior vice president, technology and product development, and a national expert on electronic payment processing.

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