Friday, December 10, 2010


Is your credit card bank tracking what you do with your money?

Well, hey, you bet!

On Wednesday morning, CNN had a feature, which I saw in the hotel breakfast room, about tips to tell whether your bank is spying on you. The CNN reporter described the situation, which seemed to be that your bank is tracking transactions that you do with their instruments (credit and debit cards, ATM withdrawals, and so on), and is analyzing the patterns. A change in pattern might indicate a change in your situation, which the bank might want to respond to by being particularly watchful, or by making additional offers of business to you. Or it could indicate outright fraud, outside of your control, which they want to catch.

After hearing that, the anchor asked the correct question: Is this really spying? The reporter responded by saying, They know everything about you.

Well, no. They know everything that you do with things they control. They know what’s in your credit report. They know whatever their partners tell them, but it wasn’t clear from the report whether banks share this information with each other. I suspect they don’t, because it can give them competitive edges over each other.

Of course, if you have three credit cards with different logos that are managed by the same bank — say, Citibank — then that bank knows about all three of those cards. I expect my bank to track and analyze my activity. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t.

CNN spends too much of its time, these days, with fluffy, overhyped pieces.

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