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Warning - if your debit and credit card contact details aren't up to date, online payments could be declined due to new fraud checks

Debit and credit card users need to ensure their bank or lender has their up-to-date contact details as providers begin to roll out new measures to double-check it's really you making the transaction. If your card firm can't reach you, your payment could be declined - here's what you need to know.

The changes are coming in under new fraud-prevention rules, known as 'Strong Customer Authentication (SCA)', which require both debit and credit card providers to ask customers to verify certain payments. As a result, you may get a text or phone call from your card firm when you make an online transaction, requiring you to confirm you are who you say you are - so don't just ignore this or wrongly assume it's a scam.

Card firms aren't required to have the new checks in place until 14 March 2022 - a deadline that was recently pushed back from 14 September 2021 due to the pandemic. But the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last week began encouraging firms to implement these measures and several card firms have told they're beginning to gradually roll out new verification processes this month.

The idea behind the move is to create a new layer of security to protect shoppers and their money. See 30+ Ways to Stop Scams for more on scams to look out for, how to protect yourself and what to do if you're a victim.

Card-by-card - when new checks come in and how to update your details

Here are the key need-to-knows and a summary of what the big banks and card firms are doing:

  • Each bank will have a different definition of what counts as a 'risky' transaction, so you won't definitely have to verify a payment - but you may. For example, online payments over £25 are more likely to be checked once the new system's up and running - see more on which payments will be verified below. 

  • Make sure your card provider has ALL your correct contact info. That includes your mobile number, landline number and email address, if you have all of those.
Bank or card firm When new checks start How to update your contact details
American Express Gradually from 1 June 2021 Via online banking
Bank of Scotland Gradually from June 2021 Via online banking or phone
Barclays / Barclaycard Gradually from June 2020 Via app, online banking, phone or in branch
Capital One From August 2021   Via the website
HSBC Gradually from June 2021 Via app, online banking, phone or in branch
Halifax Gradually from June 2021 Via app, online banking, phone or in branch
Lloyds Gradually from June 2021 Via app, online banking, phone or in branch
MBNA Gradually from June 2021 Online or by phone
M&S Bank Gradually from June 2021 Via online banking or phone
Natwest Awaiting confirmation Via online banking, phone, post or in branch
Nationwide Gradually from January 2021 Via app, online banking, phone, post or in branch
RBS Awaiting confirmation Via online banking, post or in branch
Santander Gradually from April 2019 Via app, online banking or in branch
TSB Gradually, starting later this year Via app, online banking, phone, post or in branch
Virgin Money Gradually from February 2020 Via app, online banking, phone, post or in branch

How card firms will decide which payments to verify

A number of different factors will determine if a payment needs to be verified, including the type of payment, who you're paying, amount and card firm - and crucially each provider will have its own definition of 'high risk' and 'low risk' transactions which may override any other factors. But the following are typically more likely to be verified:

  • Online payments over £25.

  • Online payments up to £25 where you've made multiple payments in a row totalling more than £85. (There's no set time period for this to happen in, and they can be to different firms). 

  • New or modified recurring payments (though NOT typically recurring payments made to the same provider, eg, for a Netflix subscription.) Recurring payments are regular payments of the same amount that you set up using the long number across your credit or debit card.

The FCA hasn't given an indication of what proportion of online transactions will end up being verified - it says that this is down to providers assessing risk in line with its guidelines. But if you regularly buy online, doing these checks is likely to become routine.

If you have to verify a payment, it'll be via text, phone call, app or card reader

Here's how it'll work:

  • Your bank may send you a text message. This will have a verification code you'll need to enter online.

  • Your bank may call your landline. Here, you'll be shown a code on the payment screen, and asked to enter it or speak it into your phone during an automated call.

  • You may be asked to log in to your card firm's app. Typically you can do this by using the built-in fingerprint scanner or facial recognition - once you've logged in, your payment should go through.

  • You may be asked to use your bank's card reader. These are small devices issued by some card firms (not the same as a card terminal used for payments). You insert your card into it and log in in the normal way and you'll be given a verification code to enter online. 

It's not clear currently whether card firms will have to try more than one avenue for verification, and which if any they must do first (we're checking this with the FCA and will update this story when we know more). But as a result, it's crucial to make sure that your card firm has your correct info. 

Remember, your bank will NEVER ask for your PIN or full password

Once these changes come in, it's likely you'll start getting texts and calls when making an online payment - and as we explain above, don't ignore these or your payment won't go through. Yet it's also important to remain vigilant and be aware that some scammers may use these new rules as an opportunity to try to get their hands on your personal and financial information.

Remember, your bank or card firm will NEVER ask your PIN, password, date of birth, address or other personal details to verify a payment under this system, so if you're asked for anything other than a verification code it's likely a scam. For more info on protecting yourself from scams, see banking trade body UK Finance's Take Five tips and our 30+ Ways to Stop Scams guide.

This isn't a one-off - it will apply to transactions on an on-going basis

These security checks aren't something you'll be asked to do once and never again – they are on-going and will apply to any qualifying card transaction online. So it's something we'll need to get used to.

The new SCA verification process has applied to online and mobile banking since 14 March 2020, so you may have already noticed certain actions requiring identity confirmation, including logging in and transferring money to somebody else. And SCA checks also already apply if you make multiple contactless payments - if you make several payments in a row totally more than £300, you are asked to verify your identity by entering your PIN.

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