Plastic makes the Switch to cyberspace

Debit cards are set to become even more popular, says Faith Glasgow

Think back to the last time you queued in the bank to cash a cheque rather than using your card to withdraw money from a cashpoint. Was it months or even years ago?

Running out of cash is no longer a disaster now that you can use a Switch card in supermarkets, filling stations and restaurants. Many places also offer a "cash-back" option for those caught short. And what about booking cinema seats or travel tickets by phone? It takes a couple of minutes now - but a few years ago you would have put a cheque in the post and crossed your fingers to make sure it arrived safely.

The rise of plastic is gathering speed. And the biggest growth is in the use of debit cards. These take the cash straight out of your account rather than putting your debt on a separate account as a credit card does. Debit cards are known under the Switch brand name in the UK but we'll eventually be issued cards under the international brand name Maestro.

According to Europay (which has 80 per cent of the European debit card market share) the number of purchases made using debit cards has shot up by almost 40 per cent in the last 12 months. Globally, the debit card revolution is even more marked - transactions have roughly doubled each year since 1996.

Debit cards are convenient and give you instant access to the money in your own account. They are particularly useful for those who don't have access to credit cards but need to pay with plastic. And they are very handy for lower value purchases, which you'd expect to pay for from your current account.

But there are drawbacks, and these are mostly debt related. It's very hard to keep track of expenditure when you use your debit card all the time, and casual card purchases or a forgotten cashpoint withdrawal could tip your precarious current account over into the red. Make a point of keeping all your receipts - this is useful for checking against your statement and in case someone uses your card number fraudulently.

Within the UK you can use Switch cards to order goods or services over the phone. But Brian Morris, electronic commerce manager at Europay, says that there are no plans to allow international transactions. "We don't feel there's high enough security; we don't want anyone who finds a card to be able to make purchases by phone around the world."

The internet has also posed a hurdle for card issuers. So-called e-commerce transactions are doubling every 12 months and set to continue to grow exponentially; cards account for around 88 per cent of those purchases. But in the UK at the moment only credit cards are accepted by internet merchants. Because debit cards involve payment straight from a customer's account they have been seen as too much of a security risk, Mr Morris explains.

That has now been sorted out in the form of a software system, SET, which is installed on your computer. It ensures both your authenticity as the purchaser and that of the firm selling to you. It is already possible to use debit cards for internet purchases in Holland, and Mr Morris says that other European countries, including the UK, will be set up for SET by the middle of next year.

But it looks like the security problem will be solved anyway by embedding microchips in new debit cards. This process will mean that all the necessary data on you and your account is held securely in a microchip in the card, rather than on the old-fashioned and easily accessed magnetic strip.

Over the next few years chip cards will open up internet shopping and also herald the arrival of multi-functional cards (for example incorporating loyalty schemes and electronic small change as well as access to your bank account). Plastic has never been so flexible.

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition