A credit card system is a type of retail transaction settlement and credit system,
named after the small plastic card issued to users of the system. A credit card
is different from a debit card in that the credit card issuer lends the consumer
money rather than having the money removed from an account. It is also different
from a charge card (though this name is often used to describe credit cards
by the public) in that charge cards do not extend the user credit -- the charges
must be paid each month in full. Most credit cards are the same shape and size,
as specified by the ISO 7810 standard. How they work: A credit card user is
issued the card after approval from a provider (often a general bank, but sometimes
from a captive bank created to issue a particular brand of credit card, such
as (American Express Centurion Bank), in which they will be able to make purchases
from merchants supporting that credit card up to a prenegotiated credit limit.
When a purchase is made, the credit card user indicates his/her consent to pay,
usually by signing a receipt with a record of the card details and indicating
the amount to be paid. More recently, electronic verification systems have allowed
merchants (using a strip of magnetized material on the card holding information
in a similar manner to magnetic tape or a floppy disk) to verify that the card
is valid and the credit card customer has sufficient credit to cover the purchase
in a few seconds, allowing the verification to happen at time of purchase. Some
services can be paid for over the telephone by credit card merely by quoting
the number embossed onto the card (the credit card number), and they can be
used in a similar manner to pay for purchases from online vendors. Each month,
the credit card user is sent a statement indicating the purchases undertaken
with the card, and the total amount owing. The cardholder must then pay a minimum
proportion of the bill by a due date, and may choose to pay more or indeed pay
the entire amount owing. The credit provider charges interest on the amount
owing (typically at a much higher rate than most other forms of debt). Credit
card issuers may waive interest charges if the balance is paid in full each
month, which allows the credit card to serve as a form of revolving credit,
or they may choose to apply any payments toward recent rather than previous
debt. Interest rates can vary considerably from card to card, and the interest
rate on a particular card may jump dramatically if the card user is late with
a payment on that card or any other credit instrument.
They are often offered to people as a means of rebuilding one's credit. Secured
credit cards are available with both Visa and MasterCard logos on them. Features:
As well as convenient, accessible credit, the cards offer consumers an easy way
to track expenses, which is necessary both for monitoring personal expenditures
and the tracking of work-related expenses for taxation and reimbursement purposes.
They have now spread worldwide, and are offered in a huge variety of permutations
with differing credit limits, repayment arrangements (some cards offer interest-free
periods, while others do not but compensate with much lower interest rates), and
other perks (such as rewards schemes in which points "earned" for purchasing goods
with the card can be reclaimed for further goods and services). In addition, some
countries such as the United States limit the amount that a consumer can be held
liable for fraudulent transactions, which shifts the liability to the merchant.
This encourages the use of credit cards for electronic and mail order transactions,
collectively called "card not present" transactions. For further security, some
banks are offering one-time numbers for use in these transactions. They have spread
far and wide beyond their initial market of the wealthy businessman and are now
ubiquitous amongst the middle class of most Western countries. Security: The relatively
low security of the credit card system presents many opportunities for fraud.
However, this does not imply that the system is broken. The goal of the credit
card companies is not to eliminate fraud, but to reduce it to manageable levels,
such that the total cost of both fraud and fraud prevention is minimised.
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