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Millions of Target shoppers face lower limits on debit cards

NEW YORK -- At least 2 million shoppers who used bank debit cards at Target Corp. (TGT.N) stores during its recent data breach are facing lower limits on how much cash they can take out of teller machines and spend at stores.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM.N) said on Saturday it is notifying customers who used Chase brand debit cards at Target from Nov. 27 through Dec. 15 that they are now limited to US$100 a day of cash withdrawals and US$300 a day of purchases with their cards.

The new limit effects roughly 2 million accounts, or 10 percent of Chase debit cards, according to a spokeswoman for Chase, the consumer banking business of JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets.

Chase said it acted as a precaution to prevent criminals from taking money from customer accounts. Chase and other banks say they will cover unauthorized transactions that customers report.

“Banks are putting various precautions in place,” Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said by email, declining to be specific about what the banks are doing.

Representatives for other major banks, including Bank of America Corp. (BAC.N) and Citigroup Inc. (C.N), told Reuters on Saturday that their institutions take steps to protect accounts, but none described specific actions so broadly limiting to cardholders as those of Chase.

Target's Snyder said that for the debit card it issues and calls Redcard, the company has activated a “deeper fraud monitoring protocol.” She did not describe the new steps.

Chase said in its notice to customers that it realized its move “could not have happened at a more inconvenient time with the holiday season upon us.”

At Chase, the usual debit card daily limits are US$200 to US$500 for cash withdrawals and US$500 for purchases, according to a bank spokeswoman.

“It seems like the banks are the 'Grinch who stole Christmas,'” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group in Los Angeles. “It is Target's fault, but children across America are going to bear the price ... The banks are protecting themselves.”

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