The shadow of the last economic meltdown when banks started reducing Visa/MasterCard limits is still firmly on everyone’s mind. Recently FBC announced that it would limit all automatic (ones where you don’t have to enter your CVV2) online payments to US$60. Confused members of the public somehow thought that meant that you could no longer make online payments of more than US$60 using the FBC prepaid MasterCard. That is not true at all. FBC has not changed its limits. The new rule only applies to transactions for which you don’t enter your CVV2.

The confusion is understandable given the use of technical terms like CVV2. To understand what is going on here let me explain what a CVV2 is. Your MasterCard has four important numbers that you need to enter when transacting online:

  • The 16 digit credit card number at the front of your card. For example 5591 8445 5251 9477. It is traditional to group the numbers into four. The most significant numbers here are the first four and last four.
  • The card’s expiry date for example 8/2024. The expiry date is usually given in the format Month/Year
  • At the back, you will find your CVV2/CVC2 usually this is just three digits for MasterCards. For example 480. For Visa cards, it can be more than three digits in which case you need to enter the last three digits.
  • Recently most banks including FBC now use a system known as 3D secure. This means every time you correctly enter the first three numbers outlined above you will be redirected to your bank’s page where you need to enter a One-Time Password sent to you by the bank using known channels. For FBC it’s via SMS and/or email. If you fail to enter this OTP the transaction will be declined.

Most modern sites, including ours when you buy airtime using your MasterCard, follow this flow. The US$60 transaction limit does not apply to such transactions. The thing is that MasterCard still allows old transactions where you just have to enter the 16 digit code! As you can imagine that is very insecure as the number can be easily guessed. Some sites are like this. There are also sites that ask you to enter your details and keep the details on file and charge you at regular intervals without you asking to confirm each time. Both of these are clear security risks.

These are the transactions that FBC will be limiting. Most people will not be affected by this changeover. In fact, most banks do the same some even decline the payments altogether.