Department Of Homeland Security To Scan Payment Cards At Borders And Airports
November 16, 2012 in U.S. News
Travelers leaving or entering the United States have long had to declare aggregated cash and other monetary instruments exceeding $10,000. Now, under a proposed amendment to the Bank Secrecy Act, FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) will also require travelers to declare the value of prepaid cards that they are carrying, known now as “tangible prepaid access devices.”
Expected to be finalized by the end of this year, the cross-border reporting modifications stem from a broader October 2011 definition of payment methods and form factors that replaced the term “stored value” with the term “prepaid access” in an effort to more accurately describe the process of accessing funds held by a payment provider.
Enforceability falls to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection both within the Department of Homeland Security, which is already developingadvanced handheld card readers that can ascertain whether a traveler is carrying a credit card, debit card, or prepaid card. This differentiation is important because only prepaid card balances will need to be added to declaration report forms.
Acknowledging that many questions still remain and that enforcement may not be straightforward,Cynthia Merritt, assistant director of the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, had this to say about the handheld readers:
Furthermore, according to the comments, the enforcement challenge is not new, nor is the concept of a device or document that can be used to access value. The current challenges are similar to those presented in the past with other monetary instruments such as checks, money orders, and traveler checks.
Merritt also stated that, “When law enforcement takes possession of a cash or monetary instrument at the border, they are effectively holding the funds, but not so with a prepaid card or other device. Holding the card does not provide access to the underlying funds.”
Other questions to be settled include how to determine mobile phone wallet and key fob balances that can function in a manner similar to card swiping, how to distinguish between reloadable and non-reloadable prepaid cards, how to distinguish between bank-issued and non-bank-issued prepaid cards, should closed loop gift cards be included in the cross-border reporting requirements,