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I live in Mexico and I've got my first debit card. I have three names. In total (counting spaces) I need 21 characters to write them. After realizing that the last letter of my last name is missing in my personal bank information and on the automatic emails I receive from the bank, I went to the bank to try to fix it. I was told that there's a character limit for writing names, and since my name was too long, it was cropped. Other important information (like my address and the Mexican equivalent of the SSN) are spelled correctly.

They asked me not to worry and let it pass, but I don't feel comfortable with my name being wrong. I just linked my account information to PayPal (where I had no problems writing my full name), and I'm worried that this disparity will give rise to problems in the future.

Is it normal to have the personal information cropped? I'm not sure whether the limit on characters is a real thing, but every time I go to ask for a change I get the same answer.

Edit: Just to clarify, I have three first names (say Jane1, Jane2, Jane3) and two family names (Doe1, Doe2). My problem was with the last first name being cropped.

2 Answers 2

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Is it normal to have the personal information cropped? I'm not sure whether the limit on characters is a real thing, but every time I go to ask for a change I get the same answer.

It is and it is. In the older systems in the banking world (those based on the good old IBM Mainframe systems) there was definitely a limited pre-allocated space for names, which was shorter than names are in many cultures (not just Mexican, long names exist in some European countries, India, Middle East). So the names are cropped or abbreviated.

On credit/debit cards the name is embossed/printed on the card, where the space is physically restricted, and is also encoded in the magnetic stripe and the chip, where the space is also limited, so there you have space constraints as well.

You can consider abbreviating middle names, if it is possible, otherwise... You're stuck with the limitations of the system. If the name is not misspelled, just the last character is missing, then you can provide the same explanation if anyone asks.


That said, 21 characters is not a lot. For payment cards, the name field is up to 26 characters, including spaces (see ISO/IEC 7813). But if there are separate fields for first and last names in the bank's system, it may be split 10/16 for example, or something similar.

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  • Thank you very much for your reply. Indeed, the fields for first and last name were separate.
    – Amelian
    Apr 16 at 12:33
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    "you can provide the same explanation if anyone asks" -- but what about, e.g., online transactions that might simply fail due to mismatch with no opportunity for OP to explain? I think this is part of OP's concern that "this disparity will give rise to problems in the future".
    – nanoman
    Apr 16 at 13:22
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    @nanoman Payment processors should be well aware of the limitations of the banking limitations... most notably because the mainstream payment processors still use the very mainframes and old languages in which such limitations arise. (I am not sure if knowing that Visa still uses IBM mainframes and COBOL will be a bright or dark spot in your day, but that's how it is...) Apr 16 at 15:06
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    @MatthieuM. It's not to do with the language or the computer, but the fact that the formats transitioned from punch cards, which have limited information storage, and that fixed-length data formats are very efficient to parse, important when your system handles tens of thousands of transactions per second.
    – user71659
    Apr 16 at 17:45
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    @nanoman beyond what Matthieu M. says, the verification that the payment processors do actually goes back to the issuing bank to make the decision. With any sort of luck, they understand their own limitations.
    – hobbs
    Apr 16 at 18:43
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This is a partial answer, addressing some practical concerns you may have. I work for a payment processing company in Europe, but I believe online payments standards are very similar throughout the Western world.

I would generally just follow directions like "please input your name as it appears on your card" literally - write exactly what is printed.

Modern online payment systems use a probability-based system for identifying the cardholder. It would be unlikely that an automated system would reject a payment because of one missing character in a middle name (so unlikely that I'd consider such a system misconfigured). Typically you can completely omit the middle names without issue, or abbreviate your first name (e.g. Alexander to Alex).

It is possible that the transaction would be flagged for some sort of extra review, but this would normally be invisible to you unless it lead to your bank automatically requesting confirmation of the transaction. Large or unusual transactions are more likely to be investigated. This wouldn't have any impact on you beyond the call/message/app notification you get asking you to confirm the transaction.

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    As anecdotal evidence to support this, even if my card includes my middle name, I have never had an issue when I leave it off the billing information. I haven't actually tried to use a different middle name though. Apr 16 at 14:50
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    @MichaelRichardson I think a different middle name would usually result in a rejected transaction, but you can get away with extra middle names.
    – aantia
    Apr 16 at 15:23
  • I was also considering to write my name cropped on PayPal, but since PayPal can ask for pictures of an ID with my full name to verify my identity I didn't want to run the risk. It's good to know that the probability of my transactions being flagged as shady is low if only a letter is missing. Thank you very much for your answer.
    – Amelian
    Apr 17 at 3:20
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    @Amelian I didn't want to run the risk – what risk? It does seem like you're worried about this, but it's not like you'd get investigated for fraud or something. If the transaction fails, you try again. If you somehow get blocked, contact the support and get it resolved. If you're not up to something shady, you will be fine.
    – WhatHiFi
    Apr 17 at 9:22
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    @WhatHiFi I didn't want to update the question to avoid it getting more attention, but I got a new debit card with another bank, they have 40 characters available for the name so I had no issue writing mine. I linked the good bank account to my new business PP account now. Thank you anyway for your input!
    – Amelian
    Apr 24 at 22:21

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