All I Want For Christmas is my Credit Card

December started out with a call from my credit card company, reporting a suspected some fraudulent use of my Visa card.  After reviewing some recent charges, there was one that I did not recognize and my card was cancelled.  I have to hand it to CapitalOne – they really are on the ball when it comes to figuring out what charges are legit and which ones are not.  It’s a little bit creepy to be honest. Ah, the age of data mining.
As I was jotting down the list businesses I’ll have to contact to updated my information once my new card arrives, I starting thinking about credit card numbers.  With all the talk about the end of the IPv4 address space, I can’t help but wonder about how many possible credit card numbers are left to distribute, especially with the use of temporary cards, like Visa or AMEX gift cards and the like.
I did a quick little search and found some slightly dated information estimating that even if credit cards only had 10 digits instead of the average 16, there would still be enough numbers to give everyone currently alive on the planet a number, with extras for people being born over the next 25-30 years.  Still that doesn’t seem like all that many to me – I know that my Visa card has been reissued at least 3 times now since I’ve had it, so I might have already used my fair share.
Without spending a lot of time pondering this issue, I guess between the various credit card issuing companies and bank numbers used to create card numbers, it’s possible to have some overlap in the customer identifying portion of the card number without causing a problem. Plus, credit card technology is always evolving.  There is always news about the use of chip cards and there are companies like this one, developing totally new ways of keeping cards secure and easy to use.  A flexible, electronic card with a rewritable magnetic strip? Cool.
Meanwhile, I guess I’ll enjoy this unexpected hiatus in my holiday shopping.The economic recovery will have to manage without me for a few more days.

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