Consumers Should Pay More Attention To Their Credit Card Receipts

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
Updated: February 2nd, 2012
The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.

Many consumers don’t bother to pay attention to the customer copy of a receipt from a credit card transaction, but those tiny slips of paper contain information that can have potential value for a thief.

Whenever someone pulls out a credit card at a point of sale to make a purchase, two receipts are typically printed out after the card is approved. One is signed by the customer and handed back to the cashier to go into the drawer and the other is for the customer to keep. However, these customer copies of credit card receipts often get crammed thoughtlessly into a pocketbook or wallet, or worse balled up and carelessly discarded at the point of sale. This is because most people don’t place much importance on those receipts and therefore don’t go out of their way to pay special attention to or keep track of them. At a restaurant, for example, they might be left behind on the bar or a table.

Those receipts are important for consumers to hang on to if for no other reason than to protect themselves against mistakes. Once in a while there may be a discrepancy between the amount on the bill and the amount that was charged to the credit card. If something is amiss, the customer copy of the credit card receipt is an important tool to help straighten the situation out.

Despite the relative security of such receipts – by law they can only display the last 4 or 5 digits of the card’s account number and the card’s expiration date does not show up on them, either – they are not totally useless in the hands of a thief. The information that does wind up printed on those tiny receipts is still sensitive and confidential personal financial information and thus those slips of paper should be treated accordingly. Anyone who does not want to hang onto their copy of a credit card receipt should tear it up and dispose of it instead of simply leaving it behind for anyone to grab.

The other numbers that are visible upon a credit card receipt, aside from the date and the last few digits of the account number, are card processing payment codes. These codes include a transaction approval code, a merchant id number and a reference sequencing number. Sometimes there is also a terminal number which identifies the cash register that was used to ring up the sale.

One good option for people to consider who do not intend to keep their copy is informing the cashier that you do not require an extra copy of the credit card receipt and perhaps they can forgo printing one out altogether. Not only does printing out an extra receipt help prevent fraud, but it’s good for the environment as well.

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