Today's topsy-turvy economy may have caused the unthinkable: consumers requesting credit cards that prevent them from spending money. A New York Times report suggests that MasterCard and Citigroup have teamed up for the United States launch of a personal finance product currently being tested in Europe.

MasterCard's inControl service allows credit card account holders to set budgets and spending thresholds on participating cards. Originally developed as a way to deter credit card thieves, MasterCard learned that the controls could also help consumers avoid financial catastrophes.

For instance, a cardholder can set a limit on the amount or the number of visits to restaurants. Upon exceeding that limit, MasterCard declines the transaction and inControl sends the customer a text message reminding them of their original request. The service can also restrict payments to vendors in specific cities or countries, limiting the impact of a lost or stolen card number. The NYT reports that Citi's integration of inControl will roll out in phases, beginning this fall with advanced text message alerts.

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joe

Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.