May 6th, 2013

Adapting to new technology

Recently (as in, moments ago), I discovered that there is a Wrong period of time to check the history of transactions on my checking account. If I check it consistently every few days, I only look at the stuff that is new since the last time I looked, I more or less remember everything I did (sometimes a trip to the grocery store slips my mind). This is an okay period of time to check the history of transactions on my checking account.

I let it go for a few weeks, and had the equivalent experience of "getting a paper statement", in that there were a few weeks worth of transactions and they were from a little bit longer ago than that (you don't get a statement up until the day you receive it, type of thing).

Wow. That was Wrong. That was long enough for me to have forgotten exactly what I had done -- and I had done several things over and above pay monthly bills (taxes, for example) AND some of the charges that I had done collectively were charged piecemeal (plane tickets and seat upgrades where I saw all the tickets and upgrades totaled, but each seat and upgrade was charged independently). For several harrowing minutes, I thought my failure to check in every day or so had allowed someone to charge a bunch of stuff.

Yeah, no.

Good news: I keep the e-mailed confirms, so I could at least reconstruct all the stuff I'd done, much less how I used to sift through stacks of paper receipts, before I had to adapt to new technology.

Other recent examples of adapting to new technology: I got a new phone. The basic data (notes, contact list, etc.) transferred automatically, as a result of some changes I made a few months ago. I redownloaded the apps and had to set up my email configuration -- predictably, I forgot to do the "advanced" settings for one of the outgoing mail server configurations. I also had to figure out how to pair the phone with various things, a task I had not previously done in some cases (car) because my husband had kindly done it for me when I was too frustrated to deal with it myself.

In less personal examples of adapting to new technology, I notice that sales tax legislation (aka make the merchant collect the Use tax we owe, so we all collectively evade fewer taxes that we already owe but don't pay because we either don't realize we owe it or it's just trouble) has passed the Senate. I think coverage of this law has been remarkably weak, largely because it fails to recognize the massive effort put in by http://www.streamlinedsalestax.org/ to address all of the issues that reporters and others are only just beginning to understand.

I've been reading more about EMV and it might come to the US. That is, when will our payment cards have chips in them, in addition to or, eventually, instead of a magnetic stripe. Almost everyone else has these, and they all require PINs, even for credit transactions, which would be a pretty big change since we're more accustomed to signature. Most of the issuers offering chip cards in the US are offering chip with signature priority and travelers to places that rely upon the PIN for offline cardholder authentication, well, they don't take those cards so those travelers are screwed. Given the number of things that are automated and without a human attendant (gas stations, toll booths, ticket kiosks) or have very long lines at the attendant, this is sort of a pain for a traveler, altho the experience is highly variable (people who carry cash and can come up with exact change don't typically suffer as much from significant problems or delays and there's some reason to suspect that the chip with priority signature cards work if you just leave it in the machine for long enough, but it's hard to know based on accounts in internet fora, har de har har, made a little joke there, amirite?).

Anyway. I'm currently seeing if I can get the apparently lone true chip+pin card readily available in the US. In the meantime, I've been trying to understand what the hold up is, and it is a big hairy mess. EMV as implemented in Europe and elsewhere would not necessarily have particularly magical effects in the US for a variety of reasons, and our payment ecosystem has some choice-attributes (supported by law) that cannot be eroded in the course of adopting EMV and those attributes will require a major new component to EMV acceptance (<-- might be the wrong word) systems. Also, we seem to be in the process of trying to leapfrog chip cards (that is, simultaneously do contact-ful and contact-less chip cards, which is more than Europe has done. Also, smartphone payments.) in an effort to convince vendors that if they just do _one_ major POS upgrade, it'll be good for a while. There's also a pretty big push to try to get people who collect card information (notably online vendors, who store card information for reuse by customers later and marketing research and so forth) to do more tokenization so as to be a less attractive target to hackers. Which is interesting because I sort of assumed everyone was tokenizing credit card numbers on acquisition and am more than a little shocked to discover that this is not standard practice.

Where was I? Oh, yeah: adapting to new technology. Which isn't, in the end, all that new.