Why confirming credit card purchases with SMS is a bad idea

During my trip abroad, I tried to use my credit card to make an online purchase, but the payment did not go through, it required a verification code sent to me via SMS. I was unable to receive the SMS, because it was sent to my US cell number, but my phone was switched to a local SIM card.

The text on the back of the credit card advises to “call collect” from abroad, but apparently this is a thing of the past. The foreign mobile phone company did not have such service, and I believe American mobile companies don’t either. I resorted to calling the credit card customer service via Skype over WiFi, and it took me about 2 hours until I was able to finally make a payment.

It looks like requiring an SMS code became standard practice around September 2019, and frankly, this is not the greatest idea, because it makes the system incredibly fragile. To receive an SMS, I must have my cell phone with me, it must not be broken, must have enough charge, must have good reception, enough battery charge, and it must be connected to my US phone number. This is a lot of “musts” in my opinion, and would deny consumers access to goods and services when they need them the most.

I hope the credit card companies get to their senses and add more verification channels than just SMS, but I am afraid it may take a while.

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