LowCards.com Weekly Credit Card Update–February 6, 2015

LowCards.com Weekly Credit Card Update–February 6, 2015

February 6, 2015         Written By Lynn Oldshue

Insurance Giant Anthem Hit by Massive Data Breach
Hackers have stolen information on tens of millions of Anthem Inc. customers, in a massive data breach that ranks among the largest in corporate history. The information stolen from the insurance giant includes names, birthdays, medical IDs, social security numbers, street addresses, e-mail addresses and employment information, including income data. Anthem said there is no evidence that credit card or medical information was compromised. While damage is still being assessed, the compromised database contained up to 80 million customer records. Story by Charles Riley for CNN Money.

Subprime Borrowers Often Lured by High-Fee Credit Cards
Unsolicited credit card offers can sound especially appealing to people with blemished credit, or a sparse borrowing history, since they lack alternatives. But cards targeting subprime consumers–those with low credit scores–can get these borrowers into deeper trouble. So-called fee harvester cards offer very low credit limits, but also charge high upfront fees that not only eat up the available credit, but also effectively increase the interest rate on the card. On Wednesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered one such company, Continental Finance, to refund $2.7 million to about 98,000 customers who were charged illegal fees. The agency also ordered the company to pay a civil penalty of $250,000. Story by Ann Carrns for The New York Times.

Mass-Market Adoption of Mobile Wallets a ‘Distant Reality’
Mobile wallets are far from becoming the standard, according to a new report from information-technology research firm 451 Research. Apple has received a lot of buzz with Apple Pay. Google, meanwhile, is continuing to invest in its mobile-wallet efforts. It was rumored to be acquiring mobile-payments company Softcard, which is a consortium started by larger telecom companies such as Verizon. The report from 451, however, points to low consumer interest and high consumer concerns about security, ease of use and widespread acceptance among merchants. The report also found that during the past year, the percentage of consumers who say they are likely to make mobile payments increased by just two points, from 22% to 24%. Story by Rebecca Borison for The Street.

Anonymous Credit Card Data Can Still Give Away Your Identity
Anonymized credit card data that masks the purchaser’s name, card number and other factors may not be as “anonymous” at it seems. According to new research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published in Science, it only takes four additional pieces of data to identity 90% of credit cardholders. Researchers at MIT assessed three months of credit card transactions for a “major bank,” covering 1.1 million people who visited over 10,000 shops. All the researchers were given was basic metadata for purchases, such as the location and time of the transaction. In scientific terms, this is known as spatiotemporal data. With just four pieces of additional information about a person’s purchase history, the researchers were able to identify nine out of ten cardholders in a set of anonymized credit card data. Story by Bill Hardekopf for LowCards.com.

Card Thieves Hit White Lodging Again
For the second time in a year, multiple financial institutions are complaining of fraud on customer credit and debit cards that were all recently used at a string of Marriott properties run by hotel franchise firm White Lodging Services Corporation. White Lodging says it is investigating, but that so far it has found no signs of a new breach. Story by Brian Krebs for KrebsOnSecurity.

Wells Fargo ATMs Now Dispense Credit Card Rewards
Wells Fargo announced it will let customers withdraw rewards earned on its credit cards for cash at an ATM. The San Francisco bank said it is the first major U.S. financial institution to offer this. Customers can use any of the bank’s roughly 12,500 ATMs to withdraw their rewards in $20 increments, deposit them into a checking or savings account or apply them to a loan balance. A new button added to ATM screens lets them choose these options. Story by Kathleen Pender for SF Gate.

Are Credit Card Fraud Mobile Apps the Next Big Thing?
By ProtectMyID and BillGuard joining together, customers and employees alike can gain a comprehensive product that supports them from data breach—including exposure of Social Security numbers or credit-card and debit-card numbers. In fact, Google Play identified BillGuard as one of the best apps of 2014. Together with ProtectMyID, it’s bound to only be that much greater. After all, getting alerts of fraudulent behavior via your mobile device allows you to react quickly—supporting the well-known understanding that time truly does impact fraudulent activity. By getting a mobile alert, users can respond much faster than they have in the past—which, very simply, can make a huge difference. Story by Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle for Forbes.

The Difference Between Credit Cards and Charge Cards
When it comes to paying with plastic, credit cards aren’t the only game in town. If you’d like to build your credit score while reducing the risk of getting in debt, you might want to consider a charge card. While similar in some ways, charge cards and credit cards each offer unique features. In general, credit cards and charge cards function alike. Both operate on a line of unsecured credit that’s been extended to you by the card’s issuer. Essentially, you’re taking out a short-term loan from the issuer every time you swipe, and you’re expected to repay this loan by the end of the month. Finding the main differences between credit cards and charge cards requires a little digging below the surface. While not very noticeable day-to-day, there are two key distinctions. Story by Lindsay Konsko for U.S. News.

Swyp’s Universal Credit Card Launches Just in Time to Become Obsolete
Sunnyvale startup Qvivr is is building a universal credit card named Swyp, competing with the likes of LoopPay, Coin and Plastc, but it’s adding its own unique twist. Swyp is a “learning” credit card that tracks your habits in order to surface the right card at the right moment, without you have to flip through your digital wallet. Like its competitors, Swyp lets you load your plastic cards into a special digital card-sized device that can emulate the magnetic stripe on any credit, debit card or gift card. A retailer simply swipes the Swyp at a point-of-sale terminal just like a regular credit card. As with most of those universal cards, only one set of credentials is active at any given time, requiring you to select the appropriate card on your smartphone or on the device’s interface before any transaction. Unfortunately, the timing for the Swyp card’s commercial release is this fall, which just happens to be when the U.S. retail industry is making a major shift toward smart cards using EMV technology. As Swyp relies solely on today’s magnetic stripe technology, it’s effectively beginning its journey to obsolescence before it’s even on the market. Story by Kevin Fitchard for Gigaom.

LowCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report
Based on the 1,000+ cards in the LowCards.com Complete Credit Card Index, the average advertised APR for credit cards is 14.40 percent, slightly lower than the 14.41 percent last week. Six months ago, the average was 14.49 percent. One year ago, the average was 14.50 percent.


About Lynn Oldshue

Lynn Oldshue has written personal finance stories for LowCards.com for twelve years. She majored in public relations at Mississippi State University.
View all posts by Lynn Oldshue