Pen, or PIN?

There was some discussion on this recently in the comments, and now it’s become reality: From tomorrow, most Australian credit cards will offer you the choice of using the PIN instead of signing, at most shops. Details on the Pen Or Pin web site.

Wouldn’t surprise me if it had been pushed by those retailers experimenting with self-serve checkouts, but it makes sense anyway, since it probably takes longer to find a pen and sign the slip than it does to enter a PIN, and half the time nobody checks the signature anyway. (Not that this change will fix that problem, since — for now — you’ll still be able to sign.)

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

4 replies on “Pen, or PIN?”

Iteresting. I don’t have a pin for my USA credit card. I just sign the slip of paper or the electronic signature pad with the stilus (a pen with no ink). The signature pads never seem to reproduce your signature very well though. In the US I always bought my gas (petrol) at the pump using my credit card in the pump’s slot. There was no need to sign anything but you did need to enter your zip code (post code) into the pump. When I tried to buy fuel like this in Australia using my American credit card the pump (bowser?) asked for a pin that I didn’t have. I had to go inside and buy my gas the old fashoned way. In the USA you pay first or leave your card with the cashier and only then is the pump turned on. This prevents the theft of fuel. The pump will stop automatically at the amount you gave the cashier and you will receive change after you are full if you gave more cash than was necessary to fill the tank.

At least you’ve got the choice – in Britain, the only way we can buy something with a credit/debit card without entering a PIN is if (a) the shop doesn’t have a chip and PIN machine, or (b) your card doesn’t have a chip. And it’s been like this since February 2006. (They say it makes things safer – I doubt the thousands of people whose card(s) has/have been cloned will agree.)

Interesting way of paying for petrol in America, though.

Mobil pumps have had the credit card option for yonks. And as for the pre-pay system, well it really sucks timewise – you get to queue twice if you need to properly fill. There were some “convenience” stores that did this a decade ago, it wasn’t so bad then as there was rarely a queue, but now it takes as long to pay as to fill, enough to make you use that card option :-)

I’ve been trying to get retailers to let me use my pin, but the ones that do the button pressing for you don’t give you a chance to say “Stop, I don’t want to sign, I’ll use my PIN”. It’s going to be hard to break the habit.

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