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Discover Nixing Alternate Credit Card Number Program

Christine DiGangi

Financial services company Discover recently announced it will discontinue its Secure Online Account Numbers program, which allows customers to generate alternate credit card numbers to use for online payments, instead of using their full account number.

The explanation posted to the company’s website provides little information about the decision:

“As part of our normal business practice, we routinely evaluate our products and services and at this time, plan to discontinue secure online account numbers,” the site reads.

A spokeswoman for Discover said via email the technology used for the online account numbers is no longer available, but she also indicated the program was not widely used.

“We recognize that secure online account numbers are popular among a small segment and regret the inconvenience,” the email said. “Please know that Discover has a robust security platform in place to help prevent fraudulent activity both in-store and online. Plus, Discover cardmembers are always protected by our $0 fraud liability guarantee, which means they are never liable for unauthorized charges on their account.”

Account holders will be able to generate numbers through Feb. 6, but all numbers will stop working after March 15. Through their online account access, customers can generate numbers to use just like a regular credit card number, which allows the user to make purchases without disclosing the number on their physical card.

Account statements show which transactions are made with the online numbers, allowing the customer to track purchases more closely, and the numbers can be canceled at any time, which would be a helpful feature in the case of a data breach. These numbers share an expiration date with the physical card.

Bank of America and Citibank offer temporary number generators with shorter expiration dates, so while that’s less convenient for setting up automatic payments, it adds another layer of protection when shopping online.

Discover customers may miss this feature, but one of the best ways to improve the security of your credit card information is to closely monitor your activity. Data breaches are very common, so your vigilance and preparedness in such a situation is crucial to minimizing potential damage to your finances or credit. Check your bank statements online regularly to quickly identify unauthorized transactions, and review your credit scores periodically, using a free tool like the Credit Report Card, as large shifts in scores may indicate misuse of your personal information.

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