How Your Car Could Replace Your Credit Card


Get ready for a whole new type of “auto” pay. Visa announced earlier this week that it is developing new technology that would effectively turn your car into a credit card — at least when it comes to paying for gas and parking.

The issuer is currently teaming up with Honda and Park Whiz to test out two apps that allow for car-based commerce via your vehicle’s dashboard. Its Fuel App is designed to notify drivers when they’re running low on gas, direct them to a nearby station and pay for the exact amount of fuel needed once they’re next to the pump. Drivers also would potentially be able to pay for convenience store items with the app.

Visa’s Parking App similarly allows people to pay the exact amount they owe at parking meters, eliminating annoying overpayments as well as the need to race back to your car if your shopping trip runs a bit longer than expected. The app, instead, would keep of track of how much time you were spending at a spot and pay once the parking session was through.

The new technology is currently in pilot phase, and the companies plan to test the fuel app out in Northern California and the parking app in New York City over a three-month period this spring. (Visa didn’t have an estimated date for a broader consumer launch.)

Visa said, in most cases, the apps would pair a credit card already in the driver’s wallet, but there is also a possibility that, in the future, drivers could link the app to credit cards issued specifically for car-related expenses when they bought a particular vehicle.

“Visa envisions a world where consumers can seamlessly make everyday purchases from the car,” a company spokesperson said in an email. “This connected car project is an early step in our work regarding electronic commerce in the age of the Internet of Things.”

Is Paying By Car Secure?

Visa’s not the only issuer experimenting with the Internet of Things — products or appliances equipped with a chip for storing data and web connectivity— when it comes to payments. Many Smart TVs already let you pay for content with a linked credit card. And Samsung just recently announced it was partnering with MasterCard on a refrigerator that lets you order and pay for groceries whenever your shelves run bare.

There’s been some debate about whether smart and/or connected devices could leave consumers open to data hacks.

For its part, Visa said all card information linked to its in-car apps would be stored in a secure element in the vehicle and tokenized for the highest security. (Tokenization replaces card numbers with a set of meaningless numbers that couldn’t be used elsewhere.) Also, any app-derived data is not being shared with anyone outside of the chain of the experience, the company said.

“Visa maintains high standards when it comes to the privacy and security of cardholder information and always requires cardholder consent,” the spokesperson said.

Consumers should read the terms and conditions associated with any smart or connected device carefully to be sure they know how their data will be protected and who might be privy to it. And, if you’re ever given reason to believe your personal information was compromised, keep an eye on your credit. A sudden drop in credit scores, for instance, can be a sign your identity has been stolen. (You can view your two free credit scores each month on

You should also monitor any credit card account linked to a smart device carefully, not only to keep an eye out for fraud, but to ensure you’re not overspending as you park, pump, channel-surf or search for snacks.

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