When the US first launched its EMV card rollout—also known as a “chip” card—only a handful of retailers accepted them. This system has already been in place for decades around the world, with about 90% of non-US retailers’ point-of-sale systems accepting either chip cards or magnetic stripe cards. Therefore, while new to many US consumers, the technology really isn’t that new.
There are some interesting legalities when it comes to EMV cards, but for the most part, they fall on the retailer. If your bank has issued a new chip credit card or debit card to you but you choose to shop at a store that has not yet upgraded its system to take the new cards—meaning, you have a chip card but you’re still required to swipe it—the retailer is liable for any fraudulent charges that may occur if your card information is stolen, rather than your financial institution.
But now that the use of EMV cards (named for the three major credit card companies that worked to create the system) is becoming more widespread, and more and more financial institutions are issuing chip cards, there are some things that consumers need to know.
EMV cards are meant to be safer – Magnetic stripe technology has a long history of being easily replicated, as anyone who’s had a copy of their credit card made can attest to. By relying on a microchip embedded in the card to store your data, it’s supposed to be a lot harder for thieves to create copies of your stolen card or download your data from the retailer’s POS system.
They do work differently, though – One of the chief complaints about the new system is the confusion that shoppers can feel while paying for their purchases. Instead of the rapid “swipe” of the magnetic stripe through the reader, you have to insert the card chip-end first and wait for the chip to be read. Then the transaction has to be processed, which takes a few more seconds. Unfortunately, for shoppers who are used to just swiping their cards and tucking them back into their wallets, it’s a little disconcerting to have the machine “think about it” for so long.
The chip is only protecting you in stores – It should go without saying that chip card technology only protects you while shopping in a physical store. If you use your card online, it’s just as easy to steal the account data as it was when you shop using magnetic stripe cards. That means it’s your responsibility to know what sites you shop on and how safe their security protocols are, and to steer clear of sites that don’t have your best interests in mind.
Of course, using a new EMV card does not absolve you of one of the biggest responsibilities that come with shopping with plastic, and that’s monitoring your account statements and your credit report regularly. By staying on top of your information, you’ll be more likely to spot any suspicious activity early and minimize the damage.
Questions about identity theft? Connect with the ITRC through our toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.