Credit-card numbers

Credit cards, debit cards and the like list their account numbers on the
front with the numbers in groups of 3 or 4, because humans have an
easier time dealing with numbers in small groups than larger. (Compare
phone numbers.)

Why, then, does every online store in the world refuse to let you type
in those spaces when you enter your credit card number? It’s so easy to
verify that you typed the right thing when you compare one grouping at
a time, and incredibly annoying to have to verify the whole thing as one
long number.

I suspect it’s just another case of programmers writing for computers
instead of humans, but the consistency amazes me. Has no-one
looked at a credit card and thought “Hey, there’s a usability feature!
I think they’re on to something here!”.

6 responses to “Credit-card numbers”

  1. I almost always code number entry handling to strip all non-numeric characters before parsing further. That way people can enter 920.555.1212 or 0111 3888 3888 5500 or whatever. The objection I’ve run into with this is, “But we need to know how long to make the field! If we let it be long enough to accept a number with spaces someone could accidentally enter too many numbers!”

    To me, this is a silly argument. There’s no way to stop them from entering too FEW numbers and it’s even more likely, I find, ESPECIALLY when you can’t see the logical grouping as you can on the card. Mumble.

    I think it’s more a case of management trying to make sure they don’t upset anyone. Isn’t it interesting that such behavior almost always guarantees its own failure?

  2. Graa. This is one feature that annoys me as well – not so much with credit card numbers but with bank account and bank sort code numbers (Bankleitzahlen, BLZ).

    In Germany, many people pay with direct bank transfer; for example, when I buy something off eBay, in general they’ll ask for money to be transferred to their bank account.

    People typically give out their bank account number with spaces, and nearly always give out their bank sort code with spaces, since they have a fixed format: eight digits canonically presented as 123 456 78. (Each bank can choose the format for their bank account numbers, though.)

    Yet my online banking form will only accept eight characters, so I can’t copy-and-paste sort codes including spaces—the last two digits will be missing. I find this monumentally stupid as it’s trivial on the programming end to discard spaces and then check for eight characters, and because it’s so widespread to type the numbers as 123 456 78 rather than 12345678.

  3. For over a year, InstantSeats has done exactly as you describe. Not that I work there or anything. :)

    (By the way, if you know of any jazz/supper clubs in Ottawa that need to sell tickets, we give commissions to people who find us venues. :D)

  4. Haha, I remember that post. As well as the CVS one. I’m sorry the Jazz scene in Ottawa sucks. If you’re ever in DC though, I’ve got the hook-up for you.

    We currently deal with a lot of small clubs in the DC-NY corridor, but we also have a couple of Big Names: Blues Alley on Wisconsin Ave. in DC, and The Village Vanguard in NYC. The larger clubs that we do have, we’ve gotten because they were upset with the way that TicketMaster does business (gouging, among other reasons).

    If you do happen to be in a jazz club, whether it be big or small, let us know what your experiences are like. We like input! And if you want to point any business our way, well, :D.

  5. Hmm – I’ve come across one place that requires you to enter credit card numbers in blocks of four digits. There were two problems with it – firstly the tab key didn’t work to move between the boxes and they had separate screens for different types of cards.

    Visa and Visa Delta (a Visa debit card rather than a credit card) had to be entered on different screens – cue me not realising this and spending an awfully long time trying to use the wrong one.