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Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates

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NMB on a security mission, finally deactivates magnetic stripe cards

There was obviously a serious meeting on security over at NMB Bank. We are now seeing the resolutions that were made at that meeting come to life.

Just yesterday we were discussing how NMB now won’t let you log into their mobile banking app unless you pony up your location data. NMB confirmed that they did that for security reasons, find out more about that here.

Apparently that wasn’t the only item on the agenda, magnetic stripe cards were also a topic of discussion. 

Encoded in that magnetic stripe is card information. That simple stripe revolutionized the card game and has been a fixture on cards since the 1960s. Before the stripe, a merchant had to write down account information for every card holder by hand. 

That’s all great but as we know, technology is a never ending pursuit of improvement. We have better ways to hold account information on our cards that are more secure, namely chip and pin tech (EMV).

The old magnetic stripe makes cards very easy to clone. By now, every Zimbabwean knows about card cloning as we have countless stories on that. That is why the industry is moving away from them.

Mastercard announced that they will be retiring the magnetic stripe in August of 2021. Other Zimbabwean banks have already done the same, CBZ moved on from magnetic stripes on their VISA Gold cards way back in 2016.

Our beloved Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe made it a requirement for banks to only issue EMV cards by 31 March 2019. That deadline was for new issues, the RBZ was not telling banks to deactivate all non-EMV compliant cards on that date.

Banks got the chance to make a smooth transition. Steward Bank made the move in 2021 as did FBC. Today, it’s NMB’s chance.

NMB deactivates magstripe cards

NMB sent out a message to its customers that all magstripe cards will be deactivated with immediate effect. 

As captured by Zimpricecheck, the message from NMB says:

We advise that all Magnetic Strip cards will be deactivated with immediate effect. Kindly visit your nearest branch today with your National ID or valid passport to collect your Chip-and-PIN card.

For help contact enquiries@nmb.co.zw or 86 77008 564/566

NMB

It took them long enough. So, if you’re an NMB customer with those old cards make your way to a branch. If only the NMB connect app would help you find the nearest branch to you.

EMV not impenetrable

Do not for a second think that your card is clone-proof just because it has a smart chip. You will have noticed that some banks issue hybrid cards that have both a chip and a magnetic stripe. Yeah, it can be just as easy to clone the magnetic stripe part of the cards.

Even where there is no magnetic stripe, researchers were still able to get account information from EMV cards in just a minute. They are then able to create a magnetic stripe version of the EMV card just as they would have for those old magstripe cards.

That doesn’t inspire confidence. The EMV cards may be more secure than magstripe ones, but if they too can be cloned in just a minute, one still has to be careful about who handles their card.

Do your part and pray that’s enough to deter fraudsters. 

  • Set up account alerts. This is one area you cannot afford to be a cheapskate, the few cents you are charged for SMS alerts are worth it.
  • Regularly and religiously go through your account statements. Go register for internet banking because then it will be free for you to review those statements.
  • Do not let your debit card be taken out of your sight. Not ever.
  • When entering your PIN make sure to block it out so that no camera or peeping-tom catches a glimpse.
  • Give the card slot and number pad a good wiggle to check for looseness. If loose, it may have been tampered with, do not insert your card in there.
  • If your card is swallowed contact the bank immediately, if possible right there whilst you’re in front of the machine that swallowed it.

Do all this and you make it harder for fraudsters.


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3 thoughts on “NMB on a security mission, finally deactivates magnetic stripe cards

  1. I think regulators should just ban acquiring non-chip POS transactions and the whole problem is solved nationwide. Banks have had more than enough time to make the switch.

  2. NMB started informing clients about card changes back in October last year. The remaining few are the ones who were reluctant because th old magnetic stripe card was still working or they didn’t have the time.

  3. NMB started informing clients about card changes back in October last year. The remaining few are the ones who were reluctant because th old magnetic stripe card was still working or they didn’t have the time.

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