"I’m sorry, ma’am. Your card has been declined," says the cashier.
Your reply: "Excellent!"
A confusing reaction? It will make sense soon, if you get a new MasterCard from Citigroup with the InControl service, described by the New York Times as a "financial chastity belt." InControl allows consumers to set their own limits on spending in overall terms or in various categories, in addition to various identity-theft and fraud protection services.
You could limit yourself to no more than $75 per month in new clothing or restaurant spending, or set a floating cap that cuts your card off once your total charges equal your checking account balance.
The service is supposed to roll out in the next few months, according to the Times, and initially, it will just offer alerts for when the card is used, by sending phone or email messages.
The move is a first for U.S. credit card companies, though Barclays offers a similar service in the U.K. Understandably, it’s not entirely in their interest: The companies must weigh the benefits from consumers using their cards with more confidence against lower balances and less interest rate revenue.
Of course, there’s always an escape valve. Consumers can call up and have the card reactivated when it hits their self-defined limits, so you probably won’t be able to keep using an InControl MasterCard to get out of paying for dinner.