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I wonder if there is room for a blog that brings together payments and the paranormal? A Fintech Fortean Times, if you will? In an age where the Tory chairman of the Parliamentary Group on Integrated Healthcare is recommending that the National Health Service starts to treat patients with astrology and homeopathy, we need to be open to new thinking, don’t we?

My spooky tale of Strange Thingies begins, as these stories so often do, with me standing up on the 7.59 Black Hole of Calcutta Express for London Waterloo only. With my iPhone pressed up against my face I was leafing through some of the payments feeds that I peruse daily and I noticed a comment that confirmed something we’d said to our clients a while back, something about EMV in the USA.

Apple Pay can sell that ease with even more confidence this year in the U.S. because paying with Apple Pay through a smartphone is much easier and faster than inserting a new EMV chip-based card into a reader and waiting for the receipt before you can take the card out of the reader.

[From Think Apple Pay’s Easy to Use Now? Wait Until EMV Becomes Mainstream]

This is true, and I’ve written before about how the pressure for contactless increases when you take away no-signature swipe and replace it with chip and PIN or even the odd US combination of chip and signature. However, I was slightly surprised to see the article move on to a perceived negative around chip and PIN.

Canadian payments experts say the conversion from mag-stripe to EMV causes at least one big problem. Consumers forget their card is in a chip reader slot and walk away from the point of sale without their card.

[From Think Apple Pay’s Easy to Use Now? Wait Until EMV Becomes Mainstream.]

Now, I was thinking about this and I decided that it would make an interesting blog post to say that in all the years since chip and PIN was introduced in the UK, I have never left my card in a reader, I’ve never seen anyone leave a card in a reader, I’ve never even heard of anyone leaving a card in a reader. Then… in a bizarre kick up the backside from an trickster cosmos… Later that very same day and while I was still thinking about my blog piece… I stopped in to get a coffee in MacDonalds on my way to a meeting. And this is what I saw when I got to the front of the line.


Words failed me. I felt dizzy. This was simply too bizarre a coincidence to assign to probability so I can only assume that morphic resonance was responsible. Meme waves had coalesced in order to shake my faith in the random and uncaring nature of the universe. I had to take a deep breath and steady myself. Gathering, my thoughts, I took the card out and discovered that the name of the cardholder was rather unusual (and therefore easy to google).


Handily, Barclays not only print the cardholder name on the front of their debit cards, but they also print the cardholder’s branch sort code and account number as well. As it happens 20-57-06 is the branch in Mile End, Leicestershire. So I’m sure it wouldn’t take too long to search online and get the home address of the person with the unusual surname and then use the card to buy some porn before they had reported the card stolen. Ah, but, you might say, you still can’t use the card details to buy porn online without knowing the three digit number on the back of the card, and you still can’t use the swipe to buy porn in a shop without knowing the signature. These are high security fences indeed, but I was able to wriggle through a gap in this Imaginot Line by turning the card around.


Don’t worry, I didn’t buy porn. I am an ethical investigator of strange card phenomena. And, in case you are wondering, I handed the card to the person serving me and altered them to the fact that it had been left, Canadian-style, in the reader. I don’t think the person who left is was Canadian, because I googled them, and they appear to be part of a select group of Leicester folk of Argentinian heritage.



  1. Please change the pictures! The first picture (with the card in the terminal) shows the last 8 digits of the card number. The second picture shows the first 8 digits,
    The third picture shows the security code on the back of the card.

    1. Yep – and I’m the dumbass who blocked out the wrong eight digits. Anyway, fixed.

  2. This reminds me of a disadvantage of apple pay I haven’t seen addressed. I drop and crack the glass once every two thousand times I pull out of my pocket. At $100 per repair that is a cost of 5 cents per “tap” to pay. Yes a case would solve, but I don’t like the extra bulk.

    1. Not sure about the statistics of this Jim. I used my phone 1,000 times per day already. Using it five extra time to pay for stuff means a 0.5% increase in usage. Pretty negligible.

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