Discover has rolled out an exclusive feature for its consumer credit cards that lets customers block use of the card through a mobile app in near-real time, but without canceling the card, the company announced on Wednesday (April 15).
The new “Freeze It” feature lets the cardholder block or unblock the account through an app, the Discover website or over the phone. Activating the feature blocks new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers, and alerts the cardholder if a transaction is declined while the card is frozen.
It’s a broader block than temporarily deactivating the card, which just prevents use of the physical card — Card Not Present transactions are still allowed when a card is deactivated — but less extreme than reporting a card lost and getting a new card and number.
“We’re giving our cardmembers a fast and simple security feature that gives them more control over their accounts and more peace of mind if a card goes missing,” Discover Senior VP of Marketing Julie Loeger said in a prepared statement. “The Freeze It feature adds another layer of protection to Discover’s continued efforts to increase cardmember security and help prevent fraud.”
While it’s a convenient feature for cardholders — replacing a lost card takes time and can leave the cardholder without the card for days — it’s the card issuer who usually eats the cost of stolen-card transactions and card replacement, so anything that cuts the number of cases where a card is temporarily lost will reduce Discover’s costs.
Cardholders can freeze and unfreeze an account as often as they like. Most transactions are blocked when the card is frozen, but transactions that are marked as recurring will go through, and so will credits for returns and rewards redemptions. The feature is primarily for locking the account down temporarily when the cardholder believes a lost card may soon be found, Discover said.
Freeze It isn’t currently available on Discover’s business cards, though Loeger told Bankrate that those cards will eventually get the feature, too. Discover is the only major card issuer with the feature — “We have a patent pending,” Loeger said.
That exclusivity probably won’t last long, especially for some variation on the ability to block Card Not Present transaction. With online card fraud expected to skyrocket in the U.S. after the EMV transition, anything that can let consumers cut off fraud as soon as they think it might be possible — and to do that without penalty — is valuable enough that other card brands will probably want it, too.