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What are numberless cards, and could they help stop fraud?

Banks such as Chase are issuing blank debit and credit cards as a security measure

Banks including Chase, HSBC, First Direct and Barclays are among the banks to have stopped issuing credit and debit cards with 16-digit numbers across the front, either putting them on the back of the card instead, or - in the case of Chase doing - away with numbers altogether.

Numberless cards are a growing trend with credit and debit card providers, said to be more secure than cards that prominently display banking information. 

However, customers aren't necessarily as on-board as the banks. 

In a survey of 1,097 Which? members in July 2022, around a third (36%) told us they have already received a numberless card. Of the majority (63%) who haven’t currently got one, around half (46%) don’t want one at all. Seven in ten (71%) said it’s because they don’t see the benefit. 

Most (83%) members who do currently own a numberless card, however, claim their experience of using it is no different than before.

With almost half (45%) of those surveyed saying they don’t know if they want one or not, it’s clear a lot of people remain unsure about numberless cards. So here’s everything you need to know about this new trend:

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What are blank or numberless cards?

It’s exactly what it says on the tin. These are debit or credit cards which feature no digits - that includes the card number, expiry/issue date and CVV number. 

Usually, it’s just the front that’s blank, with the details appearing on the back instead, but some cards have no numbers at all.

Numberless cards were first introduced in Europe by UK payment service company Curve in 2020, but Apple’s numberless credit card was the first mainstream product on the market when it was launched in the US in March 2019.

Since then, the trend has spread to the high street, with major banks and credit card providers jumping on the numberless bandwagon. 

Earlier this year Barclaycard removed numbers from the front of newly-issued credit cards, and NatWest followed suit in April. Other banks that have redesigned their debit and credit cards in this way include HSBC and First Direct.

Are numberless cards more secure?

Banks and credit card companies claim removing numbers reduces the risk of fraudsters stealing your personal details, as they're much less prominent.

Chase, which launched in the UK last September, says that having no numbers at all protects customers should they lose their card. Instead, your payment details are stored in the banking app. If you think a fraudster has somehow got hold of your card details, you can generate new details within the app and then carry on spending as usual.

However, having no numbers on show still does not stop fraudsters completely, so you still need to be vigilant. The fact that a card still exists digitally means there is still a risk your details can be stolen and used online.

If there are no numbers, how do I shop online?

The lack of numbers when it comes to online shopping was one of the biggest concerns people surveyed by Which? had about numberless cards.

In most cases, however, it’s just a matter of flipping the card over and using the digits, which are now on the back. 

For cards that have no numbers anywhere, details are usually stored behind a secure login on the bank's app. This means you'll need to open the app up every time you need to access the necessary information.

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What if I am blind or partially sighted?

Removing the notches and embossed numbers from the front is likely to concern customers who are blind or partially sighted, but many of the newer cards have been designed with this group of people in mind. 

HSBC, for example, says it wanted the front card design 'to be simple, clean and effective to benefit our customers with disabilities. By moving all the text to the back of the card, we were able to go bigger and bolder with the text without interrupting the front design of the card.'

The Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB) gave the numberless HSBC card its seal of approval, and it's worth contacting them if you have any questions about using numberless cards or recommendations for accessible options.