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This Nation May Soon Run Out of Credit Card Numbers

So many people are shopping at home during pandemic that it's facing a dearth of digits
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2020 9:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – In one sense, the extra credit cards that nearly 300 companies in Japan are issuing during the pandemic due to more people doing their shopping at home is a boon. In another sense, it's causing quite the headache. The Mainichi reports that, because so many people are requesting new cards, the nation now faces a shortage of the 16-digit combinations that are imprinted on the cards. This surge in card requests isn't only because Japanese citizens are stuck at home, but also because the country has been pushing cashless transactions since last fall. The Guardian notes that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to bring the percentage of cashless payments to 40% by 2025 (it's currently about half that), with an eventual 80% goal.

While the first six digits represent such elements as the country, type of card issuer, and brand, everything that comes after that is generated by the credit card companies to indicate discrete account numbers and the type of membership the customer holds. The Mainichi reports on one unnamed company that tried to address the digits dearth by recycling old credit-credit card numbers from former members who no longer hold accounts. That method ups the risk for fraud, however. "Increasing the number of digits is the only real way to deal with the problem," one source says. If companies do end up tacking on more digits, another decision will then have to be made: whether to reissue existing cards with the new number of digits, or simply allow both types of cards to coexist. (Read more Japan stories.)

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