Anyone who knows me more than ten minutes, knows how much I love going to the coffee shop to meet with clients and friends. The atmosphere suits me and despite never being advertised as such, there is little to no cell phone use. So, we truly chat without interference.

It will come as no surprise then that I use a pre-loaded ‘coffee card’ for paying at the till. Simple and convenient. But it is NOT an auto re-loadable card and here’s why:

A little while ago, a young-ish employee had his wallet stolen. He acted promptly and had all of his credit and debit cards replaced BUT he forgot all about the coffee card his parents purchased for him while he was at university. This was a re-loadable coffee card on an automatic monthly withdrawal from the folks bank account direct onto this card.

You know where this is going…months later, he’s at the coffee shop and suddenly remembers he had a prepaid card for that franchise in the wallet that was stolen. He calls his folks to see if they still supported that card. Yes, of course they did. He logged on-line to access the card’s information…
The warning here is how easy it was to forget he even had this card, his parents never questioned the debit from their account because they had pre-approved it as a gift for their son, so it was an expected transaction, a forgotten expense, month after month.

Despite their popularity, the issuers of these cards are not currently required to offer consumers free access to account information, fee disclosures, and protection from loss and unauthorized transactions. In 2014, more than $220-billion was charged in the United States to pre-paid cards—4% of all payment card purchases. Credit cards amounted to 54% and debit 42%.

This employee and his parents can only guess how much was used on that card before they stopped the auto-load. According to the franchise website, the card can carry of balance of up to $2,000 before the auto-load is disrupted.

I, personally don’t feel the need for an auto reload, since I can easily load the card at the counter when I need to.

As criminals look for increasingly sneaky ways to grab data and get their hands on anything with value, loyalty cards and gift cards are in danger of becoming the latest proxy in the ongoing war. Criminals are learning how to turn rewards programs, points, and prepaid cards into cash.

The questions you ultimately need to ask yourself are all my personal details, emails addresses, and credit cards numbers worth the bit of extra time it will take to re-load the card right at the counter? As easy and convenient as it is to use the card, is as easy it is to loose your identity and hard-earned money.

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