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Blink and other RFID Credit Cards

My renewed credit card from Chase arrived a couple of days ago. It was one of those new Blink cards which uses RFID (radio frequency identification) so the information can be read off the card without having to swipe it through a machine. It is supposed to get you through checkout lines faster. Chase calls their RFID card Blink, other banks or credit card issuers use different names such as: Speedpass, Paypass, and Expresspass.

Sources vary in how far away you can be to read the information. I've heard estimates ranging from 4 inches to 70 feet. But, honestly, even if it is just a few inches, someone behind me in a line could scan and get my credit card information. They claim that because the information it is encrypted, there is no problem, but this simply shows their lack of understanding. Whatever is needed for encryption and decryption is available on the card itself and on the receiving terminals, so it is just a matter of time before it is busted. There are numerous online posts for tools to read these cards.

I am at a loss to figure out why the clear security threat of sending your credit card information out via radio waves is compensated for by being able to wave it a few inches from a reader instead of sliding it through a reader. Since the possible upside is miniscule while the potential downside is large, it seems like a dumb idea to me. So, when I called to activate it, I requested a new "BlinkLess" card. Chase was very happy to accommodate me and told me I'd have the new card, without Blink in a few days. If your credit card is RFID enabled, I'd suggest that you call and request a non-RFID card. You could wait until they send you a new card, and just do like I did and request a non-RFID card when you call to activate and they try to sell you stuff.

Date: January 2010

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