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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


Chip-and-PIN: The Payment Card Transition

Jan 07


It was the biggest story in the world of payment cards in 2015, but it’s not over just yet. As retailers switch over their terminals and processes, some are still struggling to make the switch to the new process, known as EMV. Your holiday shopping might have yielded some interesting impressions at pay terminals at different points – taped over, stickers or signs telling you how to swipe or dip your card – but to learn a little more about how it impacts your information, read on.

As of last October, the payments world was in the middle of a changeover for credit and debit cards from the simple magnetic stripes we’ve known, to EMV – the embedded security-enhanced chip initiative developed together by Europay, MasterCard and Visa. The technology, known by the acronym for the three organizations who pioneered it, is intended to help protect cardholders by fighting instances of fraud through information that’s unique to each transaction. Over half a billion Americans have already received updated credit cards as of the end of 2015, with debit cards playing fast follower.

What does all this transition mean for you? We’ll clue you in.

What should I look for? How do I know if my card is a chip-and-PIN card?

EMV cards have a small, metallic square showing on them: it’s the chip that’s new. Each time an EMV card is used to make a payment, the card chip creates a unique transaction code that won’t ever be repeated. This differs from the old magnetic stripe cards, which contained a data series that never changed throughout their lifetime – meaning that they worked just as well for you as for a thief. Of course, that meant that once a thief captured your card info, they could use it over and over. This change makes it much harder for fraudsters to profit from what they steal if your information is ever part of a data breach – where criminals don’t even need to access your physical payment card.

How is using an EMV card different from my old card?

Instead of a swipe, you’ll dip it and wait for the terminal to tell you when to remove it. No more swiping your card repeatedly through a reader. EMV cards can also be used in touch-free card reading, known as near field communication, when retailers upgrade their terminals to contactless tap-and-go payment.

When will it all be done, and the whole new system online?

While the month of October was a major milestone for transition, many smaller retailers weren’t able to make the transition. The majority of EMV cards issued so far have come from major banking groups, with smaller banks following suit. Check the published schedule with specific questions about the upcoming milestones in the transition process to see how it might affect the cards in your wallet today and into the New Year.

What are people calling it?

While the official name of the upgrade is EMV, you might hear it called by a number of terms, from chip card or smart card, to chip-enabled smart card or chip-and-choice PIN card. They all mean the same thing: a card with more security features than your old magnetic strip card.

Keep an eye on your mailbox for new cards and more information about the specific timing of new items from your bank or credit grantor. Getting your questions answered early helps put you in the know when that envelope arrives.


This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc., an Experian company. © 2015, Inc. All rights reserved.

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