What Type of Credit Card?

What Type of Credit Card?

Two things strike me about the "what type of credit card" (followed by the inevitable dropdown Visa / MC / Amex / Discover) question we always get on website checkouts:

1) The law of unintended consequences

2) Developers sometimes are lemmings

The reality is, the question"what type of credit card" happened because one programmer somewhere put that into his shopping cart code, and someone copied his code/layout, and then someone copied this code, and before you know it, everyone's asking that question. Hence, the law of unintended consequences.

The irony is, this question is irrelevant! Here's what most people don't know: If a credit card starts with the digit "3" then it's always Amex. If it starts with "4" it's always Visa. "5" is always MasterCard and "6" is always Discover. So if programmers just put a little extra effort into their shopping cart code, they could easily discern what type of card it is. For example, a card that starts with "3715" will be Amex, "4024" will be Visa, etc.

So how funny is it that we all just take that question as a necessary question, without giving it a second thought? When in reality there is absolutely no reason for that question to exist, except that one programmer was lazy and everyone copied him. And I wonder how much of the world is like that! We all accept it as necessary reality but it's not; there's no reason for it. How much of your life is really all about rules you've created for yourself that have no real reason for being? Chew on that for a while.

And the follow-up question is, how much real economic loss do we face every day because of this unnecessary question on web checkouts? Just yesterday I gave a retailer my credit card and left the office. Then this morning I had an email from the retailer asking "What type of credit card do you have? I can't process your order until you tell me." They didn't ship my package to me because they didn't know the answer to this, even though the truth was staring them in the face; they could've figured it out just by looking at the credit card number I'd given them. So how much is it, $100,000 per day worldwide in lost revenue? Seems way low, but let's go with it. So with this really conservative estimate, the world is losing out on $36.5 million in commerce every year because of some lazy programmer and his copycat friends.