Online Shopping May Get Safer; Inflation Causing Consumer Debt To Soar

Google Chrome Is Getting Built-In Virtual Credit Cards

Google is adding a feature to Chrome’s autofill system called Virtual Card Numbers, which will let you hide your credit or debit card number while making purchases on the web. Google says the feature will help make it easy to securely buy things on sites that don’t support options like Google or Apple Pay. It’s basically the same experience as using Chrome Autofill to enter in your credit card details but with an added layer of security. If you give your card number to a vendor and they abuse it, you then have to contact your bank to reverse the charges and cancel your card, which is an inconvenience at best. That won’t happen if you use Google’s virtual cards. Each virtual credit card can only be used for a specific transaction, though they do support recurring transactions if you want to use it for a subscription. [The Verge]

Consumer Debt Soared by $52 Billion in March

Consumer debt levels for March 2022 climbed by $52.4 billion, an annual increase of 14%, seasonally adjusted, according to Federal Reserve data. Revolving credit, which includes credit cards, surged by 21.4%. Despite robust wage growth—over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have gone up by 5.5%—consumers are seeing those gains eroded by the highest inflation in 40 years. The cost of food is up nearly 9% over the last year, and a gallon of gas now averages $4.279 at the pump. [CNN]

Tech Giants Make Moves to Capture Rising eGrocery Sales

Major technology companies are making moves into the online grocery space. Apple is said to be looking into launching its own grocery delivery ordering service to rival Instacart, although Apple’s would have more of a focus on nutrition. Google is integrating grocery purchasing and order-tracking features into its navigation app. Additionally, in March 2021, the company announced a partnership with Albertsons Companies to integrate its cloud technologies into the grocer’s digital platforms. Amazon has also been expanding its grocery offerings, opening new brick-and-mortar stores in addition to running online delivery services both through its name-brand stores and through its Whole Foods Market brand. However, so far, Amazon has struggled to make a dent in its retail rival Walmart’s lead on the category, with the latter continuing to outpace the tech giant 10-to-one in food and beverage categories. [PYMNTS]

Google Wallet Wants to Replace Your Physical Wallet

After its previous payments push ended, Google is back with something a bit more straightforward but equally ambitious. Google Wallet will replace the old Google Pay app installed on your phone, and, if the company gets its way, your physical wallet, too. For starters, the Google Pay application already installed on your phone will soon become the new “Google Wallet” app. With this payments push, Google wants to replace and virtualize physical wallets. This is led by credit and debit cards, as well as transit and event tickets, airline boarding passes, loyalty/gift cards, and vaccination records. That, along with virtual car keys and student IDs, makes up the existing set of what can be saved to your phone. [9 to 5 Google]

Amazon’s Alexa App Now Asks Customers to Scan Their Shopping Receipts for Cash Back Rewards

It’s been said that no one uses Alexa for voice-based shopping. But retail giant still sees the potential for Alexa as a shopping companion, just in a different way. That’s why this month the company quietly rolled out a new feature designed to boost consumers’ use of Alexa’s Shopping Lists: cashback offers. The company confirmed to TechCrunch it introduced “Alexa Shopping List Savings,” which puts rebate offers from brands and manufacturers directly into consumers’ hands through the Alexa app, its mobile companion app for Echo device owners. The company says the offers will be displayed in the Alexa Shopping List section within the app and then can be used across retail stores nationwide to help customers save money. [Tech Crunch]

American Express Adds New ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ Coverage Option on Flights

Trip Cancel Guard is a new offering from American Express that functions similarly to “cancel for any reason” coverage. However, it is not insurance. In fact, you can purchase this and travel insurance to cover your trip in different ways. When purchased, Trip Cancel Guard provides reimbursement of up to 75% of your nonrefundable flights costs booked on, as long as you cancel at least two calendar days before your departure date. This option is available when paying with any American Express card issued in the U.S. and must be added at the time of booking on It’s not available later as an addition to your flights and can’t be purchased over the phone. [The Points Guy]

Visa Curates a Pool of Buy Now/Pay Later Partners for Banks

Almost two years after unveiling its program for Visa credit card issuers to get into the fast-growing buy now/pay later industry, the company has introduced a quick-access lane to streamline bank adoption. The card network has added BNPL to its “Visa Ready” program that operates as a matchmaker between fintechs and card issuers, with turnkey access to about 20 companies Visa has vetted for helping issuers launch BNPL programs through its application programming interfaces. Visa’s goal is to encourage more banks to venture into the BNPL arena to offer interest-free loans on a per-purchase basis, where fintech-powered players like Affirm, Klarna, Afterpay and PayPal dominate the scene. [American Banker]

Feds Fine Bank of America $10 Million for Illegally Garnishing Bank Accounts

Bank of America will pay a $10 million penalty and refund nearly $600,000 in fees to thousands of customers whose accounts were illegally garnished. The CFPB said its enforcement action stems from the nation’s second-biggest bank processing illegal, out-of-state garnishment orders against its customers’ bank accounts. Customer accounts were unlawfully frozen, charged illegal fees, and had money withdrawn and sent to creditors based on court orders that should have been processed under the laws of the state where they live. Since August 2011, the bank unlawfully garnished at least 3,700 out-of-state-accounts, charging at least $592,000 in garnishment fees while engaging in unfair practices. [CBS News]

Merchants Seek Bottom-Line Benefits from Credit Card Surcharges

Legal obstacles to surcharges on credit card transactions have been dropping for much of the past decade as courts continue to rule that the surcharges are permissible. This is good news for merchants looking to increase their income by a few percentage points and cover their card processing costs, but other obstacles remain, including consumers’ aversion to paying surcharges. Recent PYMNTS data found that most consumers, when faced with a surcharge at the point of sale, will tend to pay it with relatively minor damage to their satisfaction with the merchant. Despite the opposition most cardholders express toward surcharges, 85% of credit card users pay these fees when facing them. Cardholders in that situation find another payment method just 14% of the time and will leave the store only in rare instances. Our data indicates that merchants will need the right approach to reap the benefits from surcharges without compelling customers to switch their business to other merchants. [PYMNTS]

UK Government Hackers Made Hundreds of Thousands of Stolen Credit Cards Worthless to Crooks

A joint operation in the UK involving intelligence agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) and the Ministry of Defence took direct action against computer networks used by cyber criminals, helping to protect people against cyberattacks and also making hundreds of thousands of stolen credit cards worthless to the crooks who stole them. The National Cyber Force, first announced in 2020, is working alongside international partners to actively mount operations to “undermine” the networks of cyber criminals, denying them access to malware and other offensive cyber tools and preventing malicious hackers from profiting from cybercrime. [ZD Net]

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