Consumers find spending limits cut after Target data theft

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by CARLA WADE

Bio | Email | Follow: @CarlaNWade

WFAA

Posted on December 21, 2013 at 11:55 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 22 at 12:00 AM

Thousands of shoppers across North Texas have been stopped at the checkout counter unable to pay for their purchases with no warning at all — even though they have plenty of money in their accounts.

It is new fallout from that Target security breach.

And it wasn't just people buying holiday presents who found their cards would not be honored. Any kind of shopping — including groceries and gas — was halted.

Some banks put new, very low limits on debit cards during this final weekend before Christmas.

Most customers we talked to were angry they hadn't been told about the crackdown, being blamed on the problems with Target.

Banks are trying to limit their potential exposure by drastically lowering their limits on cash withdrawals and purchases for customers who used debit cards at Target between Thanksgiving weekend and December 15, when the retailer said it became aware of the breach.

Target, which has almost 1,800 stores U.S. stores, said the data theft was lined to about 40 million credit and debit card accounts.

First JP Morgan Chase issued restrictions, followed by Citibank, and other banks.

Comments filling the WFAA Facebook page on Saturday night describing embarrassment at the cash register after their cards were declined while attempting to make a purchase with no prior warning that there could be a problem.

Richard Crook was trying to buy Christmas gifts for his wife and children.

"It was pretty embarrassing because the store employees don't know what's going on; there's additionally no communication to the stores as well, so they're just like, 'Sorry.' You kind of feel like one of those guys that unfortunately have financial problems or something," Crook said. "It seems like to me if I could just access my app that's instant, why can't they put a message on my app as soon as I turn it on, 'Hey, you know, your card isn't going to work.' That would've been nice to know."

Crook finally got an e-mail message from Chase at 8 p.m. Saturday.

So how low are the limits that banks are setting?

Chase is limiting customers to $100 in cash per day, and just $300 in purchases total. That's less than a family of four may spend on groceries, pet food, gas, and a present or two. Or less than the cost of a hot holiday gift like an iPad or a video game console.

SMU Cox marketing professor Ed Fox said this isn't just bad for consumers, but also bad for local stores.

"If this puts a damper on shopping during that period, it's going to be a struggle for retailers to make plan and reach the kind of numbers that they had hoped for," he said.

So what can you do? In its e-mail, Chase said many branches are staying open late this weekend to assist customers. You can also call customer service and ask for your spending limit to be increased, but we've had lots of complaints about long wait times.

Chase said it plans to re-issue all debit cards that were part of Target's data breach in the next few weeks.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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