Chip Credit Cards: EMV, Chip-and-PIN, and Chip-and-Signature

What Is EMV Technology?

EMV is a standard for storing information in credit cards. It’s an upgrade to the magnetic stripe traditionally found on the backs of cards in the United States. Your personal and account information is stored in a small electronic chip embedded in the card, where it can be read by EMV terminals.

It’s a more secure way to store information, providing better protection against identity and credit card theft, and it will soon replace the magnetic stripe as the preferred Card Verification Method (CVM) for card-present transactions in the US.

Credit card with EMV Chip

EMV stands for “Europay, MasterCard, and Visa,” the three groups who began this initiative.

Currently, many retailers still have terminals that read only the magnetic stripe and require you to swipe the card, but more retailers will begin using EMV terminals as we continue into 2016.

Are you looking to learn more about credit? Click here for more credit-related resources »

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Difference between Chip-and-PIN and Chip-and-Signature?

  • Chip-and-Signature cards require you to sign the screen or a slip of paper to authenticate the transaction. They are not as widely accepted as Chip-and-PIN outside the U.S.
  • Chip-and-PIN cards require you to enter a PIN with the keypad to authenticate the transaction, much like a debit card.

Can a Card Be Both Chip-And-Signature and Chip-And-PIN?

Yes. Some cards have both Chip-and-Signature and Chip-and-PIN capability. Usually, one will be the preferred method of authentication. The issuing bank determines the features of a card, whether it includes a magnetic stripe, is Chip-and-PIN, Chip-and-Signature, or some combination.

How Do EMV Cards Help with Fraud?

EMV eliminates some of the ways data is stolen or replicated because the chip technology is more difficult to clone than a magnetic stripe. Any swipe data stolen from a merchant is useless because the data is expired after it leaves the merchant’s reader. It is important to remember theft is still possible, and there are breaches in countries that use this technology, but EMV technology eliminates some of the possible ways data breaches happen.

How Do I Use an EMV Card to Make a Purchase?

Rather than sliding your card through a card reader, you will insert it into a terminal slot and wait a few moments for it to process. This has been nicknamed “card dipping.” In some cases, you may be able to use near field communication (NFC) to pay for your purchase, which allows you tap your card against the terminal and transmit data wirelessly.

Will My EMV Card Still Have a Magnetic Stripe?

Many EMV cards currently include a magnetic stripe, but this will probably change as that technology is phased out. Some security experts cite including the magnetic stripe as a risk since it includes the card data in the same way that lead to data breaches and card skimming.

Are Chip-and-Signature or Chip-and-PIN Cards More Common in the United States?

Most credit cards issued in the U.S. are currently Chip-and-Signature, which is not always accepted by strictly Chip-and-PIN terminals, like some unmanned train ticket machines in Europe.

Will I Be Able to Use My EMV Card When I Travel Outside the Country?

It depends. Most countries in Europe support Chip-and-PIN cards, so if you have a one of these, you’ll likely be able to use your card wherever you go. But if you have a Chip-and-Signature card, you may run into confusion at the checkout counter or a request for additional identification.

Will Debit Cards Switch to EMV Technology?

Since consumers are used to entering a PIN with debit card transactions, many banks are issuing their debit cards as Chip-and-PIN, but still using Chip-and-Signature for credit cards.

If I Want to Use My Card at a Retailer That Doesn’t Support EMV Technology Yet, Will It Work?

Yes. All credit cards in the United States currently still have magnetic stripes because merchants still need time to adjust to this new technology.

Why Are Retailers Blocking Chip Cards?

Walgreens terminal with blocked chip reader.

This Walgreens store uses a terminal that supports reading chip cards, but they block it with a plastic plug.

To prepare for the October 1st liability deadline, new terminals are being installed that can accept Chip payments, usually in the form of Chip-and-Signature.

Some retailers are already prepared for the change, and in their stores you’ll find terminals that let you insert your card into the bottom of the reader.

Instead of the traditional card swipe, this is known as “card dipping, and you’ll need to stick the card in and leave it there until prompted to process the transaction. You may also find terminals that look like they could accept a Chip card but have been plugged up.

This is most likely because the retailer has plans to switch over to EMV-compliant hardware and software, but the full system is not yet ready so they want to prevent people from inserting their card that way.

Individual retailers may also have their own reasons for waiting longer to switch over to EMV-compliance.

EMV Liability Shift – Coming Changes to Card-Related Fraud Liability

There are three important upcoming dates regarding EMV technology known as the “EMV Liability Shift”:

  • October 1st, 2015
  • October 1st, 2016
  • October 1st, 2017

Every credit card network has its own milestones for shifting to EMV, but these dates are common between all of them and represent the most significant shifts.

October 1st, 2015

This is the date at which the liability for fraud for card-present transactions switched to the “least EMV-compliant party.” This means that, after this date, if card fraud during a transaction at a physical retail store occurs (not a website), only those companies that have invested in upgrading to EMV standards will be protected from liability.

The payment process includes several parties – credit card issuers, credit card networks, the retailer itself – and whoever has the least-secure form of EMV technology will be held liable for the fraudulent charges. This date excludes automated fuel dispensers at gas stations, which will continue to operate as they have been (see below).

October 1st, 2016

At this date, ATM counterfeit fraud will be included in the new liability rules, with the least-compliant party being held liable.

October 1st, 2017

At this date, automated fuel dispensers at gas stations will be included in the the shift described above.

Accepting Chip Cards as a Business

If you are a merchant, you will probably want to start accepting chip cards to limit your liability. If you already accept magnetic stripe cards, talk to your merchant provider about accepting chip cards. Square is currently offering a reader for $29 that works connects to smartphones and accepts magnetic stripe and chip cards.

Will the U.S.A. Be Ready for EMV?

Despite the liability deadline, by the end of 2015 only 70% of credit cards in the U.S.A. are expected to be EMV-ready, and only 41% of debit cards. This is according to a report released by the Aite Group in October, 2014.

Another study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research in April, 2014, was less optimistic: only 29% of credit cards are expected to be EMV-capable, and only 17% of debit/prepaid cards.  It won’t be until 2018 that we reach 96% for credit cards and 98% for debit/prepaid cards (the Aite report predicts about the same thing by 2017). The U.S.A. has been relatively slow to switch to EMV, compared to many parts of the world, and, partially as a result, fraud has been on the rise.

According to the Aite report, credit card fraud has doubled from 2007 to 2014, reaching 10 cents out of every $100 in transactions. Most financial institutions are preparing to use Chip-and-Signature to secure credit cards, and Chip-and-PIN to secure debit cards. There are several reasons for this, including a cheaper price, the ability to use existing hardware and software, and to make the new experience as easy for consumers as possible (people are accustomed to signing for credit purchases and using a PIN for debit).

Eventually we hope to see both kinds of cards capable of using both kinds of Chip verification. According to EMVCo, a company established to “facilitate worldwide interoperability and acceptance of secure payment transactions,” 32% of transactions around the world are EMV. The U.S.A. in particular is dragging this average down.

EMVCo breaks the world down into groups for comparison… Western Europe is leading the way when it comes to EMV transactions, followed closely by “Canada, Latin America, & The Caribbean” and “Africa & The Middle East.” The U.S.A. barely registers at all, with less than 1 percentage point.

Percentage of Card-Present EMV Transactions
World Zone July 2013 – June 2014 January 2014 – December 2014
Europe Zone 1 (Western Europe) 96.33% 96.60%
Canada, Latin America, & The Caribbean 83.33% 85.41%
Africa & The Middle East 75.90% 80.00%
Europe Zone 2 (Eastern Europe) 50.47% 58.04%
Asia 19.42% 27.01%
The United States .03% .12%
Wondering why the United States is lagging behind other countries? Click here to read more: The Cost of Fraud Versus the Cost to Upgrade: Why Doesn’t the U.S. Use EMV Technology?

Where to Get a Card with a Chip

We’ve put together this list to show you what issuers offer Chip-and-Signature and Chip-and-PIN cards. This list is constantly updated as new cards become available. If your card is in the list, but doesn’t have a chip, you can request a new one from your issuer, just make sure to call and see if a new card is already on the way.

How a card behaves at the checkout depends on the Cardholder Verification Methods, or CVMs, supported by the card and their priority order. If you REALLY want to dig into these technologies and find out for yourself how your cards will be processed by different types of card readers, check out this Reddit thread about CVM lists and this thread about a user-maintained database of CVM lists for popular cards.

Chip-and-PIN Cards in the United States

Screen shot 2015-03-24 at 3.01.29 PM

Not this kind of chip and pin…

Barclaycard

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is Barclaycard’s page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Credit Unions

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard cards are accepted.

Credit Cards

Diners Club International

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere MasterCard cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is the Diner’s Club page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

First PREMIER Bank

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere MasterCard cards are accepted.

Credit Cards

Synchrony Bank

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere MasterCard cards are accepted.

Credit Cards

United Nations Federal Credit Union

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa is accepted.

Credit Cards

USAA

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is a USAA FAQ sheet on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

US Bank

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is a US Bank FAQ sheet on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

*U.S. Bank became the first in the United States to issue a dual EMV chip and contactless payment card for retail customers with its FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card.

Wells Fargo

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa, MasterCard, or American Express cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is a Wells Fargo’s page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Screen shot 2015-03-24 at 2.53.22 PM

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is enabled with Chip-and-Signature

Chip-and-Signature Cards in the United States

Currently, most chip cards in the U.S. are chip-and-signature only. A few have PIN capabilities, which means you can set a PIN, allowing the card to be used in situations where a PIN is required.

Note: Many Chip-and-Signature cards will still work with most international merchants, except in the case of unmanned terminals (tollbooths, gas stations, kiosks). You may encounter some problems at certain terminals if you only have the Signature capability, and for this reason we recommend doing your best to get a PIN card when traveling outside the country.

American Express

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere American Express cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is the American Express page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Bank of America

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa, MasterCard, or American Express cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is the Bank of America page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Barclaycard

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard is accepted.

More Information

Here is Barclaycard’s page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Capital One

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard is accepted.

More Information

Here is the Capital One page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Chase

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard is accepted.

More Information

Here is the Chase page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Citi

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard is accepted.

More Information

Here is the Citi page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Diners Club International

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere MasterCard is accepted. Specific countries apply. See the link under more information for more details.

More Information

Here is the Diner’s Club page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Discover

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Discover is accepted.

More Information

Here is the Discover page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Navy Federal Credit Union

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard is accepted.

More Information

Here is the Navy Federal Credit Union page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Nordstrom Bank

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa is accepted.

More Information

Here is the Nordstrom Bank page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

PenFed Credit Union

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa is accepted.

More Information

Here is the PenFed Credit Union page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Regions Bank

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere MasterCard is accepted.

More Information

Here is the Region’s Bank page on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

Synchrony Bank

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa and MasterCard is accepted.

Credit Cards

United Nations Federal Credit Union

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa is accepted.

Credit Cards

USAA

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa or MasterCard cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is a USAA FAQ sheet on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

US Bank

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa cards are accepted.

More Information

Here is a US Bank FAQ sheet on EMV cards.

Credit Cards

*U.S. Bank became the first in the United States to issue a dual EMV chip and contact-less payment card for retail customers with its FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card.

Prepaid Chip-and-PIN

Prepaid Chip-and-PIN cards offer the security of chip technology, but they often aren’t linked to your personal information and require you to pre-load the card with funds. You can get these with low or no credit because there is typically no credit check to qualify. Prepaid Chip-and-PIN Cards can also be beneficial for college students studying abroad because they can’t spend more than the loaded amount.

How to Get the Pin

A 4 digit pin will be assigned to your account when you open it. You have the option to create your own pin if you want.

Where You Can Use Them

Everywhere Visa, MasterCard, or American Express cards are accepted.

Prepaid Cards

Q&A Video: What’s the Best Credit Card for International Travel?

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