Is There Anything More Pointless Than Entering Your Zip Code When Making a Debit Card Purchase?

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Just wanted to take a minute to talk about this:


So you often get this prompt when you buy gas or other things with a debit card, instead of being asked to enter your password. It’s the dumbest, most pointless exercise that has ever been invented. This “security” exists in case someone steals your card and tries using it. But how the hell is it supposed to stop a thief? Newsflash – your debit card has your name on it. And if they have your debit card, they’ve probably got your wallet too. So they know where you live, and thus they know your zip code. Or they could just guess the zip code, based on the geographical location from which they stole it. If you stole it in Worcester you’ve got it narrowed it down to 8-9 choices. If you stole it in a town you know exactly what the zip code is. This prevents absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, if someone steals your card and you’re asked to enter your pin, they have a 1 in 10,000 chance of getting it right before the card got flagged. If you’re asked to enter a zip code your best bet is a 1 in 10 chance for the criminal. But more than likely they know your zip code and they’re filling up their tank on your dime.




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13 Comment(s)
  • Wabbitt
    January 10, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    That’s why I always swipe my card as credit. When I first opened the account many moons ago, I got a call from the bank telling me that swiping as debit not only charged the purchase amount, but deducted a service fee as well.

    Why a bank employee would do something to keep the bank from taking my money is beyond me. But I’ve been hitting credit ever since.

  • Kevin Lynch
    January 9, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    More pointless than punching in a ZIP code…. My snow shovel.

  • Turd Burglestein
    January 9, 2017 at 11:42 am

    So many factual errors here, I don’t know where to begin, but here goes:

    When you enter your zip code as opposed to PIN, the card is not being processed as debit. It’s being processed as credit even though it’s tied directly to your checking account…that’s why your debit card has a Visa logo and a Visa looking account number on it. If you have a true debit only card, it can never be used like a credit card and you will always have to select the debit account type and enter your PIN. The zip code entry is what’s called card present AVS and is a standard fraud prevention method enacted by Visa/Mastercard. You have 3 failed tries before the card is flagged as potentially being stolen and it is shut down until the cardholder contacts their bank with an explanation.

    The number of possible PIN attempts is not 1 in 10,000. Most banks also limit the number of failed PIN attempts to 3 before flagging the card, so you can try 3 times. Also, the banks will not allow you to have PIN #’s of 1234, or a PIN where all 4 digits are the same…I.E. 1111, 2222, 3333, etc…, and also you are not allowed to use your birthday MMDD digits for your PIN either. There were too many issues of dumbasses back in the 90’s using their birthdate and then losing their wallet which contained their ID with their birthdate and accounts getting drained from, so they implemented that policy. So it’s really more like odds of 1 in 9989 of guessing your PIN.

    • Talisman
      January 9, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      Recently had my cc number jacked…again. One charge was flagged, but another for $1500+ wasn’t. Called and disputed, but also called the merchant to see what I could find out, some pool supply place in Virginia. According to them, they had no record of the purchase. Don’t know if it was because the bank had already flagged it or not. If I knew of anybody doing this shit, they would be extremely sorry that I did. Typing in a zip code isn’t annoying to me. Not having a credit card for two weeks is.

      January 9, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      Well stated & factually correct, Sir Turd.

      (jeebus, the intertubes is such a weird place)

  • Brendan Rys
    January 9, 2017 at 11:31 am

    An extremely high percentage of stolen credit cards aren’t ones that are pickpocketed, but ones purchased clandestinely on the dark web, that were stolen online various ways. The stolen data doesn’t always contain the zip code, therefore it is a security measure used to validate the unattended transaction.

    • Turd Burglestein
      January 9, 2017 at 11:43 am

      Correct ^^^

    • Talisman
      January 9, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Surely not all these thieves are savvy enough to use the numbers in a clandestine manner, but it seems the banks don’t do much about it.
      After the many cards I’ve had to cancel, I’ve never been contacted about a prosecution. And that’s after I provided the name of an airport restaurant where I knew for a FACT I saw my cc info being swiped. Called the manager over and he refused to give me the employee’s name. Had to catch a flight and couldn’t stick around anyway…why? Because I was getting close to being arrested by security for getting pissed and causing a scene when I was the one getting ripped off. Sure enough, get back home to a voice message asking if I’d purchased two airline tickets out of the country. Called them back and gave them what info I had. Then, nothing after that. Told my boss that was the last time I’d use my personal card and he’d be providing me with cash from there on out.

  • Phong
    January 9, 2017 at 11:21 am

    The Zip Code is for tracking purposes. It’s the store wanting to know where their customers are from. Some places used to ask you years ago. RadioShack used ro want your address.

    • Brendan Rys
      January 9, 2017 at 11:32 am

      Simply untrue. You are correct in the case of radio shack. Gas stations don’t collect demographic info for marketing purposes.

      • Turd Burglestein
        January 9, 2017 at 11:43 am


    • Turd Burglestein
      January 9, 2017 at 11:45 am

      The zip code is used to attempt to verify the person using the card is actually the cardholder. It’s called card present AVS.

  • Ed Augustus
    January 9, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I feel you here Turtleboy. Whenever I fill up in Worcester my credit card company flags it as fraudulent because I put in my Millis zip code. They say “Sir, you live in a much nicer area. Are you sure that you getting gas all they way in Worcester?” I have to remind them I work there at least once a week! The most annoying thing in the world right? I’m sure everyone who reads this blog can relate

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