Credit or debit?


When you make a purchase in a retail store using a credit or debit card, one of the first things you see on the screen (or get asked by the cashier) is quite predictable: “credit or debit?” For Visa and MasterCard, this makes sense: those brands issue both types of cards. But what about the card brands that only deal with credit cards, like Amex? Isn’t it a huge waste of time to ask Amex customers to select the card type, when the answer is always the same?

It seems like this logic should be programmed into the credit card terminals and POS systems. After all, the data is already there. The first few digits of the card number tell you which card brand you’re dealing with. Based on this, just do a quick lookup to see if that card brand issues credit and debit, or just credit cards. If the brand doesn’t issue debit cards, then there’s no reason to ask the customer a further question about it.

Am I nit picking on this? From a consumer perspective, sure. But from the retailer’s perspective, shaving a few seconds off each transaction adds up to big money when multiplied across a large number of purchases. By eliminating the credit or debit question from even 10% of transactions, the savings should be substantial.