Visa Doubletalk

I got my new Bank of American (ne MBNA) credit card a week ago and today tried to make my first online purchase — buying some Skype credit so that I can call home. After typing the card number Skype gave me a page saying that my card needed to be “verified” by Visa before it could be accepted, then transferred me to a “” URL that, oddly enough, resulted in an error page rather than a verification page. Intrigued by what new ridiculous piece of so-called protection software Visa has decided to roll out, I read up on the program. It only works at a few participating sites, participation is determined by the card issuer, and it doesn’t seem to offer any benefits to the consumer *at all* that justify the annoyance. Visa talks about how it makes online transactions “more secure,” but since it only works on a few merchant sites and still requires that you type in your credit card information, it doesn’t protect you from fraudulent online sales, it only protects you, in a few specific instances, from someone trying to use your credit card to, say, by Skype points online. They can still use it by mail, in stores, or at most other web sites.

The best part about the Visa FAQ is the strange evasive non-answers to important questions, like the question about whether Visa’s “zero liability protection” still applies when using the “Verified by Visa” program. This is important because in Europe, where Chip & PIN is becoming the norm, credit card companies are now putting the onus of proof on the cardholder and the merchant, claiming that their two-factor protection (already proven to be flawed by Cambridge University researchers) means that they should no longer be responsible for fraudulent purchases.

Here is what Visa has to say about consumer protection, see if you can make more sense of it than I can:

Will Visa’s Zero Liability policy cover me if someone uses my password to make a purchase using Verified by Visa?
The Zero Liability policy** protects you against the unauthorized use of your Visa card. For further details about the Zero Liability policy and Verified by Visa contact the financial institution that issued your Visa card.

So did I go through the Verified by Visa process and get my card setup to buy Skype minutes? No, I cancelled the transaction. And if I do decide in the future that the hassle of getting some Skype credits is worth it, I’ll use my MasterCard.

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