Charging wisely and protecting your identity are important, but we're obsessed with looking good — and smelling good.
What’s more important? Being safe or smelling good?
I ask because two recent bits of news have me shaking my head. This month, I’ve learned that only 26 percent of credit card owners are using cards embedded with an EMV smart chip. These small silver or gold squares make your card much more secure. Thieves are thwarted by them, and European and Canadian card owners swear by them.
Yet the United States has been slow to adopt them. Last year, Debt.com told you where to find the 5 best credit cards with microchips, but sadly, the list hasn’t grown much since then. In fact, a poll by Creditcards.com reveals only the wealthiest cardholders possess this technology:
46 percent of those with $100,000 or more of household income said they had a card with the chip, compared with just 13 percent of those with incomes less than $35,000.
Meanwhile, only days earlier, CNN reported, “A bank is offering scented credit cards to Middle Eastern women.” This card absorbs perfume scents and is offered by a bank in the Arab Emirates for “young, ambitious and empowered women.”
Credit cards are just a tool
Before we mock another culture’s credit card perks, let’s take a hard look at our own. U.S. cardholders can get cards made of metal with hundreds of dollars in annual fees. For instance, the Visa Black card is promoted as a “patented design” of “black stainless steel.” For that privilege, you pay $450 a year. In fact, Debt.com called it one of the five worst credit cards in America.
I’m a financial counselor and author who has written extensively about credit cards — in two books, I’ve suggested living without them, at least for awhile. Everyone who’s ever owned a credit card know how easy it is to lose track of your budget, but for some people, these cards are also a status symbol.
Until that changes, cardholders will value pretty colors, personalized options like adding your own photos, and yes, stainless steel and pleasant aromas. I’d prefer to see EMV chips become status symbols — as in, “You don’t have a protected card? You’re so yesterday!”
Get EMV PDQ
If you don’t have a credit card with an EMV smart chip, call the number on the back of your card and ask if your issuer offers them. Perhaps they do, and they’re simply waiting until your current card expires. I urge you not to wait. As Debt.com has reported, a common source of credit card theft happens when you hand your card to a waiter or cashier.
While the big data breaches make the headlines, my experience tells me you’re more vulnerable every time you hand your card to a person you don’t know. If you haven’t gotten an EMV card, do it now. If you want to learn more about fraud and identity theft, check out our free Identity Theft resources.
Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of Debt.com, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.