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How Your Credit Cards’ New Look Protects You

Written by Dustin Pellegrini on November 5, 2015 in Credit  |   2 comments

You may notice a new look to some of your credit cards arriving in the mail: a shiny metallic chip designed to protect both consumers and businesses alike. The new cards, often called EMV chip cards, feature a small microchip visible on the front of…

YourNewCreditCardsWillLookDifferentYou may notice a new look to some of your credit cards arriving in the mail: a shiny metallic chip designed to protect both consumers and businesses alike.

The new cards, often called EMV chip cards, feature a small microchip visible on the front of the card. These cards are commonly used overseas in places like Europe, and now they are headed for the United States, partially in response to the large number of data breaches in recent years that have exposed the financial data of millions of consumers. More than 120 million cards have been sent to U.S. households already, and that number is expected to climb to more than 600 million by the end of 2015.

“If we can take fraud out of the system, there is an opportunity for lower costs,” which might translate into new services from your bank, says Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance.

An Introduction to EMV

EMV cards are named for the three companies that initially adopted them: Europay, MasterCard and Visa. They use an embedded microchip to store their sensitive payment data and make the card harder to copy.

Identity thieves can easily steal (or “skim”) current credit or debit card numbers and other sensitive information from places like gas pumps or ATMs, and then imprint it onto new cards to make fraudulent purchases. Traditional cards use magstripe technology, using the magnetic black strip on the back of your card, which can include significant amounts of a consumer’s sensitive information with only weak security features.

EMV cards are designed to be inserted into a payment terminal vs. being swiped at checkout. Purchases with these cards are authenticated with either a PIN or a consumer’s signature, known as either Chip & PIN or Chip & Signature EMV cards.

Deadline shifts liability for data breach

In the United States, an Oct. 1 deadline was set for this new technology to be adopted, including EMV cards and the payment terminals needed to accept them. Banks are primarily issuing Chip & Signature cards to consumers and Vanderhoof says that “by the end of 2015, it’s expected that about 70 percent of all cards will be EMV cards.”

The Oct. 1 deadline implemented a shift in liability after a data breach, meaning that now when data is stolen, the business with the less secure technology in place will be responsible for paying for any damages. Previously, credit card companies would usually cover the cost of fraudulent charges, but now, if a consumer has a Chip & Signature card exposed because a business used older, less secure technology, the business could be liable for any loss.

During this transition period, consumers will still be able to use their cards with the magstripe.

Effectiveness in stopping fraud

Commonly used in Europe and other countries for decades, these cards have been shown to drop the rate of general credit card fraud, since thieves have a harder time obtaining the sensitive information contained on an EMV card’s microchip.

According to Vanderhoof, using an EMV card can reduce the likelihood of fraud for the lifetime of the card, with the exception of Internet purchases.

“This chip card technology does not protect the card from online or e-commerce purchases,” he says.

When buying online, consumers must still enter their credit card numbers, which can make them vulnerable to cybercriminals. Countries that have adopted EMV credit cards have traditionally seen a sharp rise in this type of fraud. So even with a new EMV card, consumers should keep a close eye on their credit card statements and report any fraudulent charges.

Transitional Difficulties

Because many merchants were predicted to not be capable of accepting the insertable cards by the Oct. 1 deadline, the new EMV cards will still feature a magstripe on the back. Consumers may insert their card to pay at one store but swipe it the old-fashioned way at another until more merchants have updated their equipment and technology.

This transition may cause some other minor inconveniences, but Vanderhoof is confident that consumers can adjust and take advantage of the improved security features.

“If consumers are concerned about their security and have not received an EMV chip card, they can contact their financial institution and find out when they can get one,” he says.

Dustin Pellegrini is a senior web producer and writer at Think Glink Media, where he specializes in reporting on identity protection and credit. He studied writing and visual media at Columbia College Chicago.

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The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


2 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    The chip is actually an RFID device. There has been some concern of the chip being read by a scanner at close range while the card is on your person. There are sleeves that can contain the card and block RF. I hope the new cards will come in such a sleeve.

  2. Anonymous says:

    EMV chip alone is not enough. Other countries are ‘Chip & Pin”. The new card, if dropped, can be picked up and used by ANYONE!!!! No signature required in most stores, I’ve found. So how do you know the person using the card is the person named on the card? You don’t! And without the “Pin”, no verification – not to mention if you go overseas, you might as well stand on a corner shouting “I’m an AMERICAN” since we are the ones without the correct technology. EMV chip cards without a PIN are LESS secure, not more. Period.


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