Credit cards are ridiculous.
Not the cards themselves, but the prehistoric “legacy” system that runs the credit card system.
Here’s what I mean. The other day, I got a haircut and bought some shampoo from the salon. I paid with my Visa card.
A couple of weeks later, checking my statement, I discovered that I was charged twice — one by a company called “Much About Hair” (the place where my stylist works) and another by a company I’d never heard of called “Mind Your Hair.”
Sounded fishy to me so I called Visa, which could offer no help whatsoever. The best they could offer me was to charge it back to the company as a fraudulent claim. Knowing this can really screw up a small company, I though it best to check with the salon.
Turns out, they simply processed my hair cut and my shampoo purchase on two different accounts — one went right to my stylist, the other went to the salon’s books. Makes sense, once you know.
This happens all the time and not just to me.
Was that purchase at Staples for my business or home? Should I write that iPhone app I bought off as a research purchase or software?
The problem is that credit card companies are see their data purely as line items in a spreadsheet, and not as moments in the lives of real people.
One approach would be to provide a way to categorize your purchase right at the point of purchase, or at least let us enter a few words into a keypad that would show up on our statement. “For Dave’s birthday.” “Write this off.” “Bill to client.” Anything but what we have now, which is nothing.
A more human solution.
Financial institutions should let us integrate these purchases into our actual lives.
Imagine an iPhone app which would alert you a minute or two every time your credit card registered a purchase. (For one thing, this would help track fraud far more effectively than relying on people to comb through their statement each month — a task I’m sure few of us do dilligently.) The screen would pop up a dialog box asking you to confirm that you did, indeed, make that purchase.?
When you confirmed it, you’re given a simple way to either categorize the purchase and/or put some notes on it. These notes would make it to your monthly bill. Or the app could geolocate you and only send you an alert if it detects a purchase from a location that you were not physically near at the time of purchase.
Let’s be clear — this is absolutely technically possible today. Computer code is programmed by humans and there’s no reason why this couldn’t be made a priority by the credit card companies.
Yes, they’d have to retrofit their legacy databases to accommodate a new field or two, but this isn’t outside the scope of what’s possible.
Come on, credit card companies. Get with it.