What’s wrong with credit cards? You can lose them. Or they can be stolen. They’re not really convenient to carry around.
I’ve got into the habit of carrying a wallet when I go out mainly because, even on those occasions when all I really need is my credit card (and of course my keys, bit of a shame they don’t fit in my wallet, I guess that’s one reason why ladies have purses?) I’m reluctant to go out of the house with just the card. Bit odd, me.
I’m a creature of habit. I figured out a while back that the way to avoid the stress of losing my cards is to always know where they are. If they’re always in my wallet then I know where they are… on the other hand when I go out on the piss and then stumble home blind drunk, I’m more interested in finding the toilet and my bed, in that order, and not really much interested at the time in making sure I put my credit card back in my wallet, so I wake up in the morning in a panic thinking I’ve lost my card.
Those whose lives are dependent upon credit (i.e. a large proportion of those in the so-called ‘civilised’ world) are currently ruled by – plagued by – two lots of little numbers: the 4-digit PINs and the 3-digit ‘security numbers’.
The PINs are needed to ‘prove’ that you are the owner of a card. The ‘security numbers’ exist to ‘prove’ that you have the card in your grubby little mitt when you are a ‘cardholder not present’. Odd phrase that, ‘cardholder not present’. Me, I’m always present, it’s the guy on the other end of the phone who isn’t, which I think says something about whose interests the banks have at heart when they put these systems together ‘for our convenience’.
Anyway, back on track. I figure that what’s needed to replace the credit card is a widget that is:
- Easy to carry around
- Difficult to lose
- Useless to anyone other than the rightful bearer
Something that’s surgically inserted under the skin might, on first glance, fit the bill. I don’t know about you, but I’m not into self-mutilation, and such a widget would make multiple accounts literally a pain, as would changing banks: it’s bad enough when you tattoo your significant other’s name on your arm and have to get rid of it when you move on. The banks would probably love this idea: I think businesses call things like this ‘aids to customer retention’, or some such. Me, I don’t much like the use of the term ‘AIDS’ in there.
I think the solution is something that is worn. Something that both sexes would feel comfortable wearing. An item of jewellery. A ring. The replacement credit card could become a fashion accessory.
A ring, by its very nature, satisfies both (1) and (2) – easy to carry around, hard to lose (unless you take it off, but then the simple answer is: don’t take it off). As for (3): this would have to be handled with the aid of technology. The ring would need to have a means of identifying the bearer. Perhaps a DNA check, from the skin? It would also need to ‘know’ that it is actually being worn. Perhaps something that checks your pulse through your finger?
With such a device one could have rings from multiple vendors. Me, I would prefer not to have my fingers dripping with jewellery. The banks would love me, because as a ‘single-ringer’ once I’ve chosen my bank, my ‘ring provider’, I’m likely to stick with that one.
For those who like to flaunt their money, the banks could offer different ‘status rings’: bronze, silver, gold, platinum – actually made of those materials (another source of revenue for the banks). Perhaps they’d offer a discrete flesh-coloured ring for those customers who would rather adopt a smaller target profile when out walking the streets (but since these rings would be useless to anyone but the bearer the risk of mugging would be reduced in any case).
Of course the ATM machines and shop card-readers would all need to be replaced by devices that interface with these rings. There would also be a need for a ‘ring-reader’ that plugs into the PC for Internet transactions. The clear up-side to this is that the user would no longer need to remember PINs at all – transactions would be faster. No more waiting in queues behind old dears who fumble around trying to find the scrap of paper that they’ve written their PIN on.
At the time of the transaction, the ring would do a ‘DNA check’ and a ‘pulse check’ (or whatever technological solution was arrived at to satisfy this) to ensure that the wearer is the right one, and alive. If it didn’t check that the bearer is alive then, in the future, there might be lots of people wandering about with fingers missing.