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Netswipe: Is it worth it?

By Janna Herron ·
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

Everyone is raving about Netswipe, the new application released Tuesday by Jumio that enables computer webcams to stream debit and credit card information for online purchases.

Forbes says it will “deliver radical change to online payments,” while many tech blogs across the Internet are falling all over themselves for it. (It helps, of course, that one of Jumio's big investors is Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.)

So how does it work? You choose the Netswipe option at checkout at participating web retailers. You place your credit or debit card in front of your webcam and Netswipe transfers the data to complete the transaction. No typing in your name, card type, account number and expiration date. If the retailer asks for the CVC security code, you will have to manually plug that in.

Netswipe automatically turns off your webcam after the transaction and discards your card and purchase information.

Call me a traditionalist, but I don't see what the big deal is, at least from a cardholder's perspective.

Retailers might like it because Jumio says Netswipe can identify fake cards that don't have embossed numbers on it. And only one of every 1 million cards is misread, which the company says is far lower than those typed in.

For the cardholder, Jumio is hyping the time-saving value. In studies conducted by the company, consumers saved more than two minutes per transaction.

But did they?

In an entirely unscientific experiment at my desk, I timed how long it took me to type my credit card account information at an online checkout: 23 seconds. I then tried it with my maiden name, which has 11 letters (versus the six letters in Herron) and my time was 25 seconds.

I admit I probably type faster than many people because I do it all the time at my job. Someone like my father, who describes his typing as the "hunt-and-peck" method using his two index fingers, is likely slower. But more than two minutes is a stretch.

Yet, Jumio's study showed that just over half of consumers aborted their online purchases when they plugged in their card information manually versus the one-fifth who used Netswipe. Those are some lazy people.

Let's not forget that many consumers have favorite web retailers and often store their card information along with the billing and shipping addresses (which Netswipe doesn't offer) on their sites. Think PayPal or Amazon. No need for Netswipe.

So I just don't know how many people will choose to Netswipe when given the option.

Still, Jumio is the second company this summer to come out with an application that uses card images for online purchases. Last month, Lumbar Labs unveiled, which uses the camera on smartphones to read card information for mobile payments.

Maybe I'm just behind the times. Would you use Netswipe?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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1 Comment
July 29, 2011 at 8:39 am

I don't like the idea of a web plug-in, assuming that's what the software is, being able to turn on my camera. Add in the fact that I'm trusting the image of the card not to be stored or transmitted insecurely. I don't like this idea. I much prefer to use virtual card numbers. I get a virtual card number from my bank and use it for a single online transaction for a dollar limit I set on it. Once it's used, it doesn't matter if anyone gets a hold of the number because it's not good any more. I'll take security over the convenience of not having to type in a number any day.