Q: I am very concerned about the private information credit card companies collect about us. A few years ago there was a story in the news about American Express profiling customers by where they shopped and the zip code they lived. With banks and big brother exploiting us I don’t feel safe and would like to know what the best anonymous prepaid credit card is for privacy.
A: Well for starters, it’s interesting that you cited American Express as an example. The first leaked internal documents detailing the inner workings of that program were originally posted on Credit Card Forum by an ex-employee of American Express. Fortunately, AmEx quickly discontinued that practice after the media outcry and they no longer profile customers today, so that issue has been resolved.
If you have been trying to find an anonymous prepaid card online or offline and had no luck, here’s why…
The U.S. Patriot Act
This is one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in recent history. It created a federal law that requires all banks and financial institutions to obtain and verify information about account holders, whether that’s a checking account, brokerage account, credit card, and even prepaid credit cards are subject to this requirement.
Of course, this makes truly anonymous prepaid credit cards a thing of the past. Nowadays if you get a prepaid card, you will have to provide your personal information, including name, address, and your Social Security number.
Even if you don’t live in the U.S. and are a citizen of another country, you still may run into this same predicament. For example, an anonymous card in the UK and Canada won’t be possible, because they also have their own versions of the Patriot Act.
Options For 2013?
Although a prepaid credit card application will legally have to gather information about you, it’s highly unlikely they will be asking for information like your income, your employer, etc. Furthermore, just because they collect your SS# it doesn’t mean they will be reporting you to the credit bureaus. So overall, a prepaid credit card will still probably offer you more privacy than a regular card would.
If you want privacy while shopping, remember gift cards are still anonymous. Of course they will have a limited dollar value to them, but American Express gift cards, Visa gift cards, etc. should still offer you privacy.