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.

About the Author


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.