By now, you have most likely received your new ‘chip’ card from your credit card company or bank. With these cards, instead of the traditional ‘swiping’ of your card to make a payment at the store, you ‘dip’ the card so the machine can read the embedded microchip — you might want to think of it as “chip-n-dip.” The chips are designed to make credit cards more secure.


Here are 8 things to know about the EMV cards to get you up to speed.

1. What it’s called. These cards are known as an EMV card, short for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, which were the founding companies of the EMVCo consortium that created the EMV standards. These cards have been used in Europe, Australia, Canada, the Middle East and Asia for years.

Last year, a counterfeit fraud liability shift came into play where any U.S. party (issuer or merchant/acquirer) that have not made an EMV transaction possible at the point-of-sale is now bearing the responsibility of paying any counterfeit card chargebacks.

Today, approximately a third of U.S. merchants are enabled to accept chip cards, and about three quarters of consumers have at least one chip card in their wallet, according to the U.S. Payments Forum. The reason some merchants are lagging on EMV migration is due to the costs of installing EMV-compatible Point-Of-Sale (POS) systems and the additional training it requires.

2. How it protects you. The chip is like a microcomputer that performs calculations. Every transaction generates a unique cryptographic signature. Magnetic strips, by contrast, store static data which can be easily copied or “skimmed” by hackers using off-the-shelf equipment as you move through a store. From there hackers can create a counterfeit card.

3. How to use it. In most cases, you dip the card in a point-of-sale terminal. The new terminals take a little longer — several seconds — to read the cards than old-school “swipe” readers that have been around since the 1970s, according to the National Retail Federation. Nowadays, contactless technology (such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, etc.) allows consumers to simply tap their EMV card against a machine that reads it.

4. Whether you need a PIN. Besides introducing a counterfeit fraud liability shift, the brands (except Visa) also introduced a lost-and-stolen liability shift for the US market. This means that the party (Issuer OR Merchant/Acquirer) that was responsible for not having captured a PIN from the card holder, will bear the lost-and-stolen liability chargeback. Depending on your financial institution, you may receive an EMV card that requires your signature at the point of sale or one that requires you to enter a PIN. Few U.S. financial companies are issuing cards with both capabilities, according to creditcards.com.

When traveling abroad, it’s ideal to have a chip-and-pin card because in certain countries, such as France, most terminals accept only cards with PIN verification, according to creditcard.com.

5. What it doesn’t do. EMV technology isn’t designed to help stop online fraud, so take all the usual precautions when shopping online with your credit card.

6. What happens in stores that don’t have EMV readers. You’ll still be able to use your card, since stores that haven’t upgraded can still read the card’s magnetic strip. You just won’t get the benefits of the chip.

7. What happens if the card is stolen. Cards without PINs are left open to vulnerabilities. Mallory Duncan, the National Retail Federation’s senior vice-president and general counsel, says on the NRF website that the chips themselves “do nothing about lost or stolen cards because thieves will still be able to sign any illegible scrawl to ‘prove’ that they are the cardholder. More importantly, sophisticated criminals can circumvent the chips, so a chip alone is not foolproof.

A chip card without a PIN is like locking the front door while leaving the back door open,” Duncan says, concluding, “In today’s world, you need to lock both doors.”


8. What to do if you haven’t gotten your EMV card yet.

Given that three-quarters of consumers have at least one chip card in their wallet, the odds that you haven’t gotten your EMV card are slim. Your bank will eventually mail you one if it hasn’t already, but if you don’t want to wait you can call the toll-free number on the back of your card and request a new chip-enabled card.

Steve Evans, MA, is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience in daily news, investigative, health and business journalism. Among other jobs, he has served as managing editor of the Central Virginia Newspaper Group, as a senior writer for SNL Financial and as a staff writer for The Progress Index and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.