Happy Spending with Interac

‘Debit or credit’? They’re two words that many of us hear throughout the course of our day when it comes to making purchases. Instincti...

‘Debit or credit’? They’re two words that many of us hear throughout the course of our day when it comes to making purchases. Instinctively, we tend to reach for our credit cards thanks to clever marketing and the attractive add-on features that come with using them – points accumulation, exclusive discounts, and a thirty-day grace period before you actually have to transfer the funds from your account. 

Benefits to be sure, although as we know from living in an age of prevalent criminal activity surrounding credit fraud that the exposure of personal information leading to millions of dollars lost through financial theft presents inherent risks, among them that the number on the front of the card is essentially an account number linked to you, and therefore vulnerable to the capture and exploitation of personal data.

Conversely, debit card use brings little in the way of any side consumer benefits; on the contrary, there may actually be fees involved depending on the banking package you have, but your funds are withdrawn immediately from your account and you’re on your merry way. Perhaps a lot less of that shopping rush most of us get from using Visa or Mastercard, but did you know that your debit card was many times safer than credit?

Unlike credit cards, the number on the front of your debit card is not an account number; it is only an identifier for Interac transactions. This means that any stolen data is entirely useless to criminals because it cannot be used to conduct transactions, online or in person, and no personal financial information is ever shared or stored with retailers.

In fact, as March 2015 marks the 11th anniversary of Fraud Prevention Month, the annual education and awareness campaign that encourages Canadians to recognize, report, and stop fraud, Interac debit card losses are reporting at record lows, decreasing 45% to $16.2 million in 2014 from a previous low of $29.5 million in 2013. To highlight these findings and show just how many safeguards Interac has in place in order to curb card fraud, the debit card brand gathered together a select group of city lifestyle editors and hosted an engaging and informative dinner conference at Old Montreal’s Commerce Gastropub. 

Here we learned about some of the measures that have led to the impressive results: all ABMs and Interac debit cards have been converted to chip technology, and by the end of 2015, all point-of-sale (POS) terminals will be converted as well, dramatically cutting down on skimming (the theft of payment card information used in an otherwise legitimate transaction).  In the event any fraudulent purchases do occur, consumers are protected by a zero liability policy. 

The ever-growing Interac Flash is a debit enhancement (that has all the same security features plus the added protection of small transaction limits - simply hold your card in front of a POS reader that supports Flash, and a beep and/or ‘approved’ message on the terminal acknowledges that the purchase is complete.

While using it, though, perhaps you thought, as I have, that it would be easy for anyone to steal and use your card without having to enter a PIN? Well fear not as no single transaction can be more than 100$ and the total spend cannot exceed $200. Once a limit is reached, a cardholder must insert their debit card and enter their PIN for verification. The limits are then reset. ‘Criminals are after large amounts of cash and high value goods, not a few coffees’, says Mark Sullivan, head of Interac’s Fraud Risk Programs. 

Overall it’s a system that benefits everybody: for merchants the transaction costs are mere pennies compared to those of credit cards, and consumers enjoy convenient, efficient and, most importantly, worry-free use of their hard-earned funds. Sounds like even without the points and privileges that come with credit, using your own money in real time comes with its own invaluable reward program.

In support of Fraud PreventionMonth, Interac Association has created a webpage dedicated to raising awareness about payment card security and fraud prevention. For more information and videos, please visit:

*The editor was a guest of Interac at the event.


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