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Goodbye signatures? Credit card firms make big change

Published: Thursday, December 28, 2017 @ 12:24 AM

Credit cards.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Credit cards.(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Don’t take this too hard: Your autograph isn’t worth what it once was.

>> Read more trending news

American ExpressMastercard and Discover have each announced that, starting in April, they will no longer require signatures on any U.S. and Canadian credit card purchases.(Actually, American Express is making the change for all its transactions worldwide.)

Visa hasn’t announced any plans to do the same. But there’s speculation it may eventually do so.

That pretty much would fully evaporate what may be the most common reason U.S. consumers still bother writing signatures, which were once the most prominent symbol of our financial integrity and proof of our identity (It’s also another blow to the general use of cursive writing, for those who remember what that is.)

“Signatures may be going the way of the lava lamp,” said William McCracken, the president of Phoenix Synergistics, a metro Atlanta-based consumer market research company focused on financial services.

“They will not be part of Gen Z. Signatures won’t be part of their stored memories.”

The shift away from signatures also hints at the fantasy we all pretended to believe: that signatures actually proved something.

“The industry’s unspoken secret is that signatures on a credit card receipt are relatively worthless from a security standpoint,” McCracken said.

Thieves only had to look at the signature on the back of a credit card, practice it a few times and come up with a fake good enough to pass.

But even that involves some quaint thinking. Because almost no one in places where we shop or dine is even glancing at signatures these days, whether you signed on paper or a glitchy electronic pad using a faulty stylus or your finger.

That would seem to explain why I’ve never been flagged for using my finger to draw a line across checkout signature pads.

Signatures are still used on plenty of legal property documents, government-issued IDs, artwork, acknowledgments of medical privacy notifications, cards to grandma and anything fans can ask celebrities to scribble on.

Yet, in other ways signatures have been slipping from the economy.

Instead of putting his “signature” on new dollar bills earlier this year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used a handwritten mix of upper- and lower-case block letters that could have been thumbed out on a smartphone.

Signatures became less necessary as check writing shrank. And while credit card use continues to grow — there were more than 37 billion U.S. transactions last year totaling $3.27 trillion dollars — most of that is going unsigned.

John Hancocks aren’t required on typical online purchases.

And credit card firms already scaled back signature requirements on small transactions. More than 75 percent of face-to-face Visa card transactions in North America don’t require people to sign their name, according to a Visa spokesman.

Thar is just as well.

Who hasn’t gone to sign for a credit card purchase using a pen that doesn’t work and “you just scribble anyway,” said Kim Sullivan, the senior director of payments solutions for Georgia-based transactions technology giant NCR.

Dropping signature requirements should speed up lines at retailers, Sullivan said, which is exactly what store owners are seeking.

“It’s going to improve the experience” for merchants and consumers, she said.

“It’s all about faster and frictionless,” she said.

Sullivan guesstimated that eliminating signatures might save an average of three seconds on each credit card transaction. So retailers can increase the number of customers they serve and generate more money, she said.

Some customers may feel a little unsettled with the idea that purchases of hundreds or even thousands of dollars could be made without signing anything.

Security is already the biggest concern people have about using credit cards, said McCracken from Synergistics.

For now, there has been no widespread rush to require use of PIN codes with credit card transactions in the United States. And some consumers are creeped out about the idea of entrusting credit card companies with personal biometric data that could help verify their identity.

Other security measures are already in place, such as checking the cards’ three- or four-digit CVV number, asking consumers for their billing ZIP code, adding computer chips to more cards and monitoring for unusual purchasing activity.

But the cruelest reality of saying goodbye to our signatures is this: apparently they already have so little value there isn’t a sweeping rush to replace them with something new.

No more free checking for Bank of America customers with low balances

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 5:53 AM

Charlotte-based Bank of America has eliminated a free checking account popular with lower-income customers. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Charlotte-based Bank of America has eliminated a free checking account popular with lower-income customers. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Charlotte-based Bank of America has eliminated a free checking account popular with lower-income customers.

>> Read more trending news

The bank is now requiring customers to keep more money in their accounts to avoid a $12 monthly fee.

A national petition on change.org has more than 52,000 signatures from people begging the bank not to end its free checking accounts.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the bank switched its e-banking customers into the new accounts this month.

E-checking, which launched in 2010, had a monthly fee of $8.95, but customers could avoid the fee by using online banking and not using a teller.

Now, those customers will have to pay a $12 monthly fee unless they maintain a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500 or make a direct deposit of $250 or more.

Jessica Wassman said her boyfriend just learned about Bank of America’s plan to end its e-checking accounts and transfer those customers to core checking accounts.

"It did seem a little unfair,” Wassman said. “If you don't make a certain amount of money, you get penalized for it. It was a little insulting. The cost of living is going up, but poverty is still big and people can't afford simple things.”

Economist John Connaughton said checking accounts cost banks money and, with the economy improving, said customers can expect higher bank fees.

"When you start to see 4 percent unemployment, those are the types of things that happen,” Connaughton said.

Video shows children leaving alleged 'torture house' in California

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 5:50 AM

Details Emerge About 13 Siblings Rescued From California Home

Following their parents’ arrest, the Turpin siblings finally tasted freedom.

>> Watch the news report here

A surveillance video shows the siblings exiting the house where they were allegedly held captive. One grown sibling is shown carrying one of the younger children while another sibling is seen running to the silver van in the driveway that would take them from the house which reports have described as a nightmare.

>> Hundreds of journals found in home where 13 siblings held captive, DA says

David and Louise Turpin were arrested after one of their daughters reportedly escaped from the home and called police. The children were found Jan. 14 at their home in Perris, California. The Turpin parents are accused of abusing their children for years.

>> Dogs found in perfect condition in home where 13 siblings held captive

The parents allegedly forced the children to shower only once a year, shackled them to furniture and beat them routinely, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said at a press conference. The Turpins also are accused of taunting their children with food. Hestrin said the children had not been to a doctor in four years and had never visited a dentist.

The 13 siblings, ages 2 to 29, have all been hospitalized. Hestrin said the oldest sibling, a 29-year-old woman, weighed only 82 pounds. He said a 12-year-old sibling was the weight of an average 7-year-old.

>> Parents accused of holding their 13 children captive appear in court

All of the siblings are being treated for malnutrition and undergoing other diagnostic tests.

“Circumstantial evidence in the house suggests that the victims were often not released from their chains to go to the bathroom,” Hestrin said at the press conference. “If the children were found to wash their hands above the wrist area, they were accused of playing in the water, and they would be chained up.”

The parents have each been charged with 12 counts of torture, 12 counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult and six counts of child abuse. In addition, David Turpin has been charged with one count of a lewd act on a child under the age of 14 by force, fear or duress. They have each pleaded not guilty to all charges.

13 Siblings Held Captive In California "House of Horrors"

David Macher, a lawyer representing David Turpin, told ABC News: “What we would like the public to know is that our clients are presumed to be innocent, and that’s a very important presumption,” adding, “We’re going to provide a vigorous defense.”

Meanwhile, Hestrin said that when the siblings were not chained up, they were locked in different rooms and were not allowed to have toys. Investigators said they found many toys in the house; however, they were reportedly in their original packaging and had never been opened.

The Turpins are accused of starting the torture of their children when they lived in a rural area of North Texas near Fort Worth. Hestrin said the torture “intensified over time and worsened” when they moved to California in 2014.

“They were fed very little, on a schedule," Hestrin added.

>> Read more trending news 

The moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Perris, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, where they home-schooled their children and allegedly kept them trapped inside the home.

A sister of Louise Turpin, Elizabeth Flores, told ABC the couple kept to themselves.

“This has been going on before they even had children. … They were real private, and they didn’t come around much,” Flores said.

“We begged to Skype (with) them,” Flores said. “We begged to see them.”

Report: Couple holding 13 children captive were days from moving to Oklahoma

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 10:26 AM

Details Emerge About 13 Siblings Rescued From California Home

A report says David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin, the California couple accused of allegedly holding 13 siblings captive in their home, were planning to move to Oklahoma.

ABC News reported that the parents were moving from California to Oklahoma days before they were arrested and charged with torture and child endangerment, citing multiple unnamed sources.

>> Read more trending news 

David Turpin was getting a job transfer with a defense contractor he was working with, according to ABC News. Moving boxes were reportedly found at the residence. The report says the family has moved to multiple places over the years, including a home in Texas.

Related: Here’s what the children in the California torture house did to cope with the abuse

The couple’s 17-year-old daughter escaped the home early Jan. 14 and called 911, saying her 12 siblings were “being held captive” at a Perris, California, residence by her parents.

Related: Parents accused of holding their 13 children captive appear in court

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in a Jan. 15 news release that the siblings, ranging in ages from 2 to 29, “appeared to be malnourished and very dirty.” Six of the siblings are minors.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were charged with 12 counts of torture and a lewd act on a child by force or fear of duress. The siblings could only have one meal a day and take one shower a year. Hestrin said at a news conference that the siblings were able to write in journals all the time, which will provide “strong evidence of what occurred in that home.”

Related: DA: Captive siblings limited to one meal a day, one shower a year

Two dogs were found by authorities in the home, according to city spokesman Joe Vargo. Vadrgo said in a statement that the two Maltese terrier dogs were in much better condition than the siblings.

Related: Dogs found in perfect condition in home where 13 siblings held captive

“The animals, one white and one black, appear healthy and friendly and are leash-trained, according to Christina Avila, a senior animal control officer,” a news release from the City of Perris said.

The parents made their first court appearance Thursday and entered not guilty pleas to all charges. Their bail is set at $13 million. They are scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 23.

Cheesecake Factory's famous brown bread is headed to grocery stores

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 1:24 AM

An employee carries freshly baked bread at a Cheesecake Factory Inc. restaurant in the Canoga Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. The Cheesecake Factory is scheduled to release earnings figures on August 3. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An employee carries freshly baked bread at a Cheesecake Factory Inc. restaurant in the Canoga Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. The Cheesecake Factory is scheduled to release earnings figures on August 3. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images(Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cheesecake Factory fans rejoice! Starting this week, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the restaurant’s staples in the comfort of your own home.

The chain has announced that it’s rolling out its popular brown bread to grocery stores nationwide. The bread will be available to customers for purchase in three different forms: an eight-pack of heat-and-serve dinner rolls, a two-pack with mini baguettes or pre-sliced sandwich loaves.

>> Read more trending news 

The rolls and baguettes have a suggested price of $3.49, while the sandwich loaves are listed for $4.49.

The bread made from whole wheat flour is similar in calorie count to bread from other brands, coming in at just 110 calories per dinner roll and 80 calories per loaf slice.

People who have tried it reportedly have confirmed that it’s just as soft, chewy and slightly sweet as it is when you visit the Cheesecake Factory – just heat up the rolls or baguettes in the oven for five minutes at 350 degrees. Once they’re done, top them with butter or your favorite spread to add flavor.

The brown bread is part of the restaurant’s Cheesecake Factory at Home line, which includes several other products — cheesecake mix, coffee creamer and chocolates — that are available at grocery stores.

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