HOUSTON --You probably lock your front door when you're not at home, your car when you're not driving, and your smartphone when you're not using it. But, have you ever thought about locking your credit or debit card when you're not making a purchase? New apps are designed to do just that: prevent unwanted charges by letting users "turn off" their cards at the touch of a smartphone! But is a "remote control" for your cards key to keeping your information safe?
When a flyer from his bank arrived in Scott Kilmer's mailbox advertising a new app that would "lock" his debit card with a quick tap and swipe, he signed up.
"That was really the feature that stood out to me most, where I could say it's time for me to turn this off and just know that I have the peace of mind that no one can get to this account but me," Kilmer said.
The app Kilmer has is one of several some banks are offering. They're designed to let customers prevent unauthorized charges. Here's how it works: Open the app and toggle this button to "activation" and the debit card is "on." Transactions are approved. But toggle that activation switch the other way, and try to buy something, the card is declined.
"We're all familiar with the bank systems that identify suspicious activity, but this is one that actually stops the fraud before the transaction occurs," said Robb Gaynor of Salauzai Software.
Salauzai Software is the maker of the app Kilmer uses. Gaynor predicts this technology will be the next big thing in banking, and says right now more than 80 smaller banks and credit unions are offering their app for debit cards.
And the functions of this technology go beyond turning a card on or off.
"You can also do things such as asking for ATM limit increases, point of sale increases, or letting the bank know if you're going to be outside of the country," Gaynor said.
Keep in mind though, in order to change any card settings with an app, you've got to be digitally connected. If you lose your phone or the battery dies when your card is locked, you could be looking for Plan B to get money or make a purchase.
"I know exactly where my money is being spent, and better, where's is not being spent," Kilmer said.
The American Bankers Association recommends you still keep a good eye on your account even if your card is "locked" most of the time. And though fraudulent transactions can be a pain to dispute, they point out customers are not on the hook for them financially. They say whether or not more big banks will adopt this technology depends on whether it grows in popularity at the banks that already use it.