More Contactless Cards Coming… New York, Boston and San Francisco Beware

Bank of America (BofA) has just announced they will be issuing several RFID chipped Visa debit and credit cards in the cities of New York, Boston and San Francisco.  You can link to the full article here, but these are the fast facts and our take on the matter:

  • BofA will issue about 4 million contactless, chip-enabled cards between the three cities.
  • The release will take place during the last few months of 2019.
  • These cards will immediately replace the current user’s cards, rather than waiting for them to expire.

…and yes, without RFID protection these cards are likely vulnerable to an electronic attack by thieves with contactless card skimmers, as were all the other contactless payment cards we have tested.

BofA claims this initiative is to further test user acceptance of contactless payment cards.  These regions were strategically chosen for the high percentage of merchants and transit systems accepting contactless payments in those locales, a factor which could naturally encourage their customers to use the contactless feature on the new cards.

Transit systems in those regions are also implementing contactless payment systems which could increase the chances of a successful rollout for BofA due to the “convenience” factor of a quick tap and go payment when boarding the transit vehicle. 

It is important to note that there were other problems with past attempts to implement contactless payment terminals within transit systems.  Because of the proximity-based nature of a contactless payment terminal, issues frequently arose with users who had more than one contactless card on their person.  Such users would wave their intended payment card over the terminal to enter the transit system, but later found that both or one of their contactless cards were charged for the same transaction.  This problem was so widely reported that it became known in the UK as “Card Clash.”

Interestingly enough, the report states that card issuers made a “failed attempt” to roll out contactless payment in the US over a decade ago.  It does not explicitly state why the push failed, but we can suggest a few possible reasons including: 

  • A smaller number of merchants equipped with contactless payment terminals.
  • The “Card Clash” problem with transit systems.
  • Identity Stronghold’s unrelenting criticism of RFID chipped cards, passports, etc. across dozens of news networks, radio shows and television programs at that time.

We like to think we had something to do with it!

BofA’s initiative in these cities only marks the beginning of another major push by card issuers to rollout contactless cards in the US.  The report also illuminates the fact that many other card issuers too have plans to release more contactless cards near the end of the year.  Other countries in the EU, such as the UK, and Australia have widespread contactless payment usage.  It’s no surprise that the reports of related card fraud have also risen with the increased usage in those regions. 

Is the US doomed to suffer the same consequences?  We exist to keep you informed and offer some solutions.  The final determination is ultimately yours to make.