Travelling? Activate your credit cards first

Travelling? Activate your credit cards first

SINGAPORE - The next time you travel overseas and plan to use your credit or debit card to buy something, be sure to activate it before leaving Singapore.

The Association of Banks (ABS) told The Straits Times on Monday that all 10 card-issuing banks here will deactivate the magnetic stripes on credit and debit cards by Oct 1. The stripes on all newly issued cards will also be inactive by default.

This is a new security measure to safeguard card users' account details and to prevent lost or stolen cards from being cloned by "skimming" syndicates, said ABS' director Ong-Ang Ai Boon.

In the European Union for instance, it has been estimated that organised crime groups derive more than €1.5 billion (S$2.5 billion) a year from payment card fraud. But the new feature also means that customers will have to activate each card they plan to use abroad.

The methods vary from bank to bank, and may include SMS, ATMs and phone hotlines. Some give cardholders the option to activate the stripe for a limited time, while others require customers to deactivate them again after the travel period.

Local transactions will not be affected. This is because all credit and debit card payments here are processed using embedded EMV chips, which are said to be more secure.

But merchants in the United States and South Korea still rely on the magnetic stripes. Not all retailers in Britain, Europe, Malaysia, Australia and Japan accept cards with EMV chips.

When contacted, credit card giants American Express, Visa and MasterCard said they supported the move. But Visa's country manager for Singapore and Brunei, Ms Ooi Huey Tyng, urged banks to communicate the change "to avoid cardholders being stranded overseas, unable to use their credit cards to make payments".

HSBC will be deactivating the magnetic stripes on its credit and debit cards issued in Singapore by the end of next month. DBS Bank will do so on Sept 22.

United Overseas Bank, Maybank and Citibank will deactivate them by Oct 1, and will inform their customers of the change through their bank statements and on their websites soon. Businessman Patrick Tan, who owns two credit cards, hopes that banks will make card activation convenient for users.

"I hate to be put on hold (when I call bank hotlines) and if I forget to activate it, it's very inconvenient."

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