With so many credit card scams, merchants and credit card companies are looking for ways to make credit card transactions more secure. So are consumers. One powerful solution is probably in your wallet, in the form of a thumb-size metallic square on your credit cards. The square is a computer chip, which turns your credit card into a chip card and makes it impossible for hackers to clone credit cards.1
Unlike the magnetic stripe on traditional credit cards, chip cards don't store sensitive information. Instead, each time the card is used, a unique transaction code is generated. If hackers intercept that transaction, they will not be able to use the code again.
With the introduction of chip cards in late 2015, the United States is following the lead of European countries, which adopted them several years before. Nearly 90 percent of credit card users commonly use chip cards.2
As you get up to speed on chip cards, keep these five facts in mind:
- Insert, don't swipe: Instead of swiping the magnetic stripe, you insert the chip card into a chip reader.
- More secure, but not foolproof: Though chip cards are more secure, they can still be compromised. If your physical card is lost or stolen, it can be used by someone else since most cards only require a signature. What's more, the credit card chip doesn't protect against online fraud, so your card could still be compromised by Internet purchases.
- They're slower: We've all grown used to the speed of swiping, but the chip reader takes longer. Expect to spend a few more seconds at the checkout line.
- You can use the magnetic stripe as backup: While you should always use the chip reader, not all retailers have it installed or activated yet. If they do not, chip cards also have a magnetic stripe you can use.
- Fraud liability doesn't change for the consumer, but it does change for the card issuer and the merchant at point of sale: If there are fraudulent transactions on your credit card, you still have the same fraud protections with a chip card as before (you may be required to pay up to $50 for those transactions, but often you will not be charged). However, the liability for fraud may shift to the merchant or the issuer of the card reader if the terminal is not EMV-compliant.3