Keeping Things Confidential

Debit cards Many current EFT-POS schemes are pilot projects so you might not have the option to try them out just yet. But debit cards are a possibility for anyone and are issued by most of the big banks. Before applying for a debit card, bear in mind these points:

- using a debit card rather than a cheque usually means that your account is debited much sooner than the three days or more that it normally takes for a transaction to clear

- using a debit card rather than a credit card means that you lose an interest-free period of credit

- the legal position regarding debit cards is unclear so it's important to check the terms and conditions - in particular, whether your liability is limited if the card is lost or stolen. The Jack Committee has proposed that debit cards - including Debit >Banks and building societies have a well-established duty to keep details of their customers' accounts confidential. Employees have to sign declarations of confidentiality and are not allowed to discuss customers' business outside the bank - or even inside if there's a possibility of being overheard.

Anyone - including you - should get short shrift if they ring up your branch asking for details of your account over the phone. If you go into a branch and ask for details of your balance, the amount should be written down and handed to you, not spoken aloud.

If you're not satisfied with the security at your branch, discuss it with the manager. If you know someone at the branch personally and feel uncomfortable about them having access to your account details, your only recourse is to switch to another branch.

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This stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale. It means paying for goods and services using computer terminals in the shop, petrol station or wherever. There are already a number of EFT-PO S schemes. Payments are made using credit cards and/or debit cards. Your card is 'swiped' through a point-of-sale terminal and you are asked to authorise the payment by either signing a form produced by the terminal or by punching your PIN into a keypad. If the system is 'online' it can 'talk' directly to your bank's or building society's computer to check that you have sufficient money in your account... see: Eft-pos

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