Smart technology: Chip-and-PIN credit cards

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

There are a lot of questions about chip-and-PIN credit cards. They are almost universal in Europe, but not widely offered to American customers. So here we give some basic information about what the chip-and-PIN cards are.

A chip-and-PIN card looks like any plastic but contains a special chip that holds the same information that is contained in the magnetic strip along the top of a general card. When you use a chip-and-PIN card, you must enter a PIN to complete your purchase.

Today you can see the cards with both chip and magnetic strip technologies. They are rather convenient, especially if a merchant cannot or refuses (which is common in Europe) to process the strip card.

Some consumers and merchants prefer chip-and-PIN cards because they are more secure. The chips are harder to clone. This significantly reduces the probability of fraud.

This chip system is almost widely adopted in Europe and Canada. But most Americans carry the cards with magnetic strips. This may become a problem when making purchases abroad. Despite the fact that merchants on chip-and-PIN system can still process the strip cards, they are unwilling to do so.

American card issuers are slow in adopting the chip-and-PIN technology because it will cost them. The companies and merchants will need to buy new equipment which is not cheap. Also this is the reason why American chip-and-PIN cards are targeted to more elite customers. And these cardholders are the ones who travel abroad where chip-and-PIN technology is widespread.

Nevertheless, the American major card issuers – Discover, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express – plan to introduce the chip technology in the future. You can get a chip card today though, if your issuer offers such cards. Some issuers can offer a chip card upon request.

The chip technology is not the main factor to consider if you are a frequent traveler. There are cards which are not accepted in certain parts of the world. If you doubt, consider carrying some extra cash.

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