Let me make a memo on credit card purchases


Back to wishlists on credit cards: Every year, for tax time, I go over my downloaded credit card records and I classify them into categories. I could just try to divide out the business and personal expenses (which I handle by having credit cards for business only and for personal only) but I try to do a bit more categorization, and from time to time there's a reason I don't follow the strict rule about what card to use.

So I would like, when I do an online purchase, to have an optional field in the form in which I can type anything. This would get put in or added to the memo field that you get when you download your transactions into accounting software. A quick script could then turn these memos into the categories we need for accounting.

Since getting a new field in forms is a lot of work, card companies could also offer me a small set of similar card numbers, though there might be only one on the physical card. This could be used to do some very basic categorization on the same card. They would all download to the same account, but the last digit would show up in the memo field. I know there are cards that issued a new number for every internet transaction back in the more paranoid days, but I'm talking about a series of cards where only one digit changes (if accepted by the processors because they pass it fully along,) and I can fill in the digit I like for a given transaction. (If I wish I could also get another card made of course. In fact, that would be handy if I decide to get two cards on the same account when giving a sub-card to a family member but not wanting a completely independent account for them.)

Anybody do this?


I have a similar suggestion. Issue a second (or third for two card families) card that would be used only for pre-authorized payments. Then when you loose a card you don't have to run down the list of companies you deal with to figure who was getting paid with that card and then phone with the new number.

Credit card companies are already happy to issue a second card for a spouse. How hard would it be to offer a third good only for pre-authorized transactions.

They get more business. They don't have to reject pre-authorized payments to no longer valid cards. Companies you setup for pre-authorized transactions are happier because they don't have to pay someone to talk to you about the new card number (or perhaps send you a notice via snail mail that your old card no longer works etc.)

Good idea, but you'd have to change two digits.

You're probably right, but I would actually suspect most online merchants today just pass the number to the card processor in real time for verification, they don't do the check digits themselves. But there may be enough that do it that you have no choice but to pick conformant numbers.

If you have one of the cards with real time email alerts, you could create a system that would...

  1. receive your email alerts for you on a special address (brad108567@managemycharges.com)
  2. each time a new charge email was received by the service, it would trigger an app on your phone to pop up a window with the details of the charge and give you the chance to add a memo and/or category (or "snooze" the charge and deal with it later)
  3. offer an OFX proxy between you and your bank that would mark-up your transactions with the new memo/category data as you downloaded it into Quicken or whatever you use
  4. Obviously not as good as having the banks do it natively, but still gets you most of the desired functionality without having to wait for them to do it (which might be a very long time).

    Again, this is something I've done hackishly for myself with local scripts, but have often thought about making into a public service. The biggest hurdle is not the technology (almost trivial), but trust. Since the service would need to have access to people's real-time transaction data and to their OFX password (sadly, often the same as their password to log in to their bank website), people need to be able to really trust the service.


Yes, a big part of the hassle of accounting is having to remember things about transactions much later, so the email stream is a good idea.

At CES today I saw a company that makes "soft" credit cards which have a processor in them that can rewrite the magstripe on demand as well as what is visible on the front. (no rewriting the emboss.) They can let you pick which card number to use, or even generate custom ones. But they are only sold to banks, users can't get them!

If you can stand to do business with Bank of America, they've been offering this ever since they acquired MBNA. You can create as many subsidiary card numbers as you like, and you can set your own credit limit and expiration date on each one. It's actually quite useful for dealing with unknown online merchants that you may not trust fully, since it limits the damage that can occur if they lose your information, notwithstanding the bank's promise of zero liability in any case. However, some merchants' payment processors, notably PayPal, will fail to accept the card numbers generated by ShopSafe, returning an uninformative error message to the merchant's website. The merchant's own helpdesk is usually clueless about what the error code means. Isn't anticompetitive capitalism wonderful?

The best advantage of the option field I think is that when you download your transactions into accounting software. Anyways I am happy that I could learn most of the basic stuff related to online purchase. Thanks a lot for the share.

This is in theory an excellent idea but in practice it will never happen. What you are suggesting would require a significant change to a credit transaction process that has not changed since the addition of the “zip code security” feature that’s been around long before the e-commerce age started. Since it doesn’t make them any money (or help stop losing money) that will never happen. This is why there are all of these proprietary security and sales info products like ShopSafe and expensive products SoftCards. As omnibus companies like Amazon make Separating your spending spending even harder, this really is something the merchants themselves would need to adopt in order to lure more business as well as sellers to use their marketplace.

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