Home Depot. Target. DSW. Neiman Marcus. TJ Maxx.
What do these companies have in common? They have all suffered massive credit card breaches in recent years and, unfortunately, they are not the only ones.
In 2013, at least 740 million-plus records were compromised, according to the Online Trust Alliance—and the list is rapidly growing as major retailers can’t seem to stop hackers from getting to shoppers’ personal data.
The switch to PIN and chip readers (already the norm in many other countries) is on the horizon—a change that will undoubtedly make using your plastic saer. But in the meantime, a number of tech companies have been hatching some innovative solutions, each intended to make commerce feel a bit more secure.
What it does for you: This service aims to replace all of your credit, debit, membership, and loyalty cards with one Wi-Fi-enabled, credit card-shaped device that can be swiped just like a regular card. And it’s tethered to your smartphone: If you accidentally leave your Coin behind, your phone will auto-lock against thieves and text you to let you know you forgot it.
All of your data stays on your smartphone or Coin, so the retailer where you used it doesn’t have access to your credit card information. However, Coin’s ambitious product has had a rocky start: They missed their original ship date, irking their pre-order customers, and the founders admit it’s still not ready for manufacture, nor has it been officially endorsed by any of the major credit card companies. That said, the company raised $15 million in their first funding round … now if they can just get it to market, the service could make it considerably safer to swipe.
Availability: Summer 2015
What it does for you: Like Coin, this system is another swipe card that you can load with your existing cards. Stratos, which was formerly Protean, announced it has received funding to develop a system that combines all plastic cards into a single, smart, dynamic card.
3. Apple Pay
What it does for you: Leave your plastic at home and pay with your phone (or your Apple Watch, coming soon to your wrist). Hold your phone near a reader, authorize it with your fingerprint, and instantly transmit payment information. Because you never hand over a card to a merchant with Apple Pay, your card numbers are never revealed. Instead, all your data is encrypted, and transmitted by NFC (Near Field Communication).
Plus, if your phone is ever lost, you can use Find My iPhone to lock it or remotely wipe its information. Google Wallet, and the new Softcard system (a payment system collaboration between mobile carriers) have been trying to make mobile payments catch on for a while. But Apple is late to the party on purpose, launching with a list of confirmations from all U.S. credit card companies and key merchants like Macy’s, Duane Reade, and Whole Foods.
Cost: Free feature on iPhone 6, 6 plus or Apple Watch.
Availability: October 2014 for iPhone 6; wider rollout when Apple Watch launches in 2015
What it does for you: Keeps your cards safe from hackers by rendering them “locked” until you’re ready to use them. Then use the Card Control app to switch them on and make your purchase. It’s like a remote control for your plastic.
You can also set spending limits, or disallow certain types of purchases, which is great for college kids or anyone you want to keep on a short leash (including yourself). Many credit card companies will send you alerts to warn you of possible fraud, but this technology can help you avoid it altogether—and it puts the control in your hands, which can be a comforting thing in today’s world. Card control is being tested by one bank chain at the moment, and it is a platform that your bank will need to institute to make the features available to you.
Cost: TBD, likely free.
Availability: Projected for late 2014
What it does for you: Wallaby connects all your credit cards to one “smart” card. When you swipe it, the Wallaby technology determines which of your cards would be the best one to use, maximizing your rewards for each purchase. You don’t have to do the thinking, or even bring all those cards with you, to earn those triple points or that cash back.
Though this system isn’t designed to improve security per se, your personal information isn’t at as much risk of exposure because you’re swiping one card instead of many, and you can leave your plastic at home.
Wallaby might not be a name you know and trust (yet), but the company uses bank-level security, and its application is “read-only” (which means it can’t manipulate your accounts, nor can anyone else who happens to log into your account). It’s not available yet, but you can sign up for the beta trial list.
Cost: Free for the first six months, then $50 per year
More on Betterment