FAQ

EMV Chip Cards

What is EMV?

EMV chip technology is becoming the global standard for credit card and debit card payments. Named after its original developers (Europay, MasterCard® and Visa®), this technology features payment instruments (cards, mobile phones, etc.) with embedded microprocessor chips that store and protect cardholder data. This standard has many names worldwide and may also be referred to as: "chip and PIN" or "chip and signature.

How does chip technology work?

An EMV-enabled device will communicate with the chip inside the smart card to determine whether or not the card is authentic. Generally, the terminal will prompt you to sign or enter a PIN to validate your identity. This process enhances the authentication of both the card and cardholder, effectively reducing the possibility that businesses will accept counterfeit cards or be held liable for a fraud-related chargeback.

What makes EMV different than the traditional magnetic stripe card payment?

Simply put, EMV (also referred to as chip-and-PIN, chip-and-signature, chip-and-choice, or generally as chip technology) is the most recent advancement in a global initiative to combat fraud and protect sensitive payment data in the card-present environment. Payment data is more secure on a chip-enabled payment card than on a magnetic stripe (magstripe) card, as the former supports dynamic authentication, while the latter does not (the data is static). Consequently, data from a traditional magstripe card can be easily copied (skimmed) with a simple and inexpensive card reading device – enabling criminals to reproduce counterfeit cards for use in both the retail and the CNP environment. Chip (EMV) technology is effective in combating counterfeit fraud with its dynamic authentication capabilities (dynamic values existing within the chip itself that, when verified by the point-of-sale device, ensure the authenticity of the card).

Why should I invest in chip card acceptance now?

Preventing the growth of card-present fraudulent activity is one of the main reasons the industry is moving toward EMV technology. Chip cards make it difficult for fraud organizations to target cardholders and businesses alike. As a result, more and more chip cards are being introduced by U.S. financial institutions in order to support and switch over to this technology.

In addition, Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express have announced upcoming liability shifts for credit card transactions based on this standard. Any merchants or issuers who do not support chip technology may be liable for the cost of counterfeit fraud. The term "Liability Shift" refers to the change in who bears the chargeback related cost of fraudulent transactions. The timeframes for compliance are:

  • Most merchants (petroleum pay–at-pump transactions are excluded at this time) need to support EMV by October 2015
  • Petroleum pay-at-pump merchants need to support EMV by October 2017

How am I impacted by the liability shift?

With the liability shift, if a chip card is presented to a merchant that has not adopted a terminal that is certified for chip card acceptance, liability for counterfeit fraud may shift to the merchant's acquirer – who may then pass this fee back to the merchant. The liability shift encourages chip adoption since any chip-on-chip transaction (chip card read by a chip certified terminal) provides the dynamic authentication data that helps to better protect all parties. In addition, if a counterfeit magnetic stripe card is presented at a chip certified terminal, the liability for the counterfeit fraud will be the responsibility of the card issuer.

Will I still have to sign or enter a PIN for my card transaction?

Yes and no. You will have to do one of those verification methods, but it depends on the verification method tied to your EMV card, not if your card is debit or credit. Chip-and-PIN cards operate just like the checking-account debit card you have been using for years. Entering a PIN connects the payment terminal to the payment processor for real-time transaction verification and approval. However, many payment processors are not equipped with the technology needed to handle EMV chip-and-PIN credit transactions. As with a magnetic-stripe credit card, you sign on the point-of-sale terminal to take responsibility for the payment when making a chip-and-signature card transaction.

If I want to use my chip-card at a retailer that doesn't support EMV technology yet, will it work?

Yes. The first round of EMV cards -- many of which are in consumers' hands -- will be equipped with both chip and magnetic-stripe functions so consumer spending is not disrupted and merchants can adjust. If chip-card readers are not in place at a merchant at all, your EMV card can be read with a swipe, just like a traditional magnetic-stripe card.

Will I be able to use my EMV card when I travel outside the country?

The U.S. is the last major market still using the magnetic-stripe card system. Many European countries moved to EMV technology years ago to combat high fraud rates. That shift has left many U.S. consumers who have magnetic-stripe cards looking for other forms of payment when they travel.

Since many foreign merchants are wary of magnetic-stripe cards, consumers who hold some type of chip card may run into fewer issues than those without one.

What are the benefits of EMV?

The biggest benefit of EMV is the reduction in card-present card fraud resulting from counterfeit, lost and stolen cards. EMV also provides interoperability with the global payments infrastructure – consumers with EMV chip payment cards can use their card on any EMV-compatible payment terminal.

How does EMV address payments fraud?

First, the EMV chip card includes a secure microprocessor chip that can store information securely and perform cryptographic processing during a payment transaction. Chip cards carry security credentials that are encoded by the card issuer at personalization. These credentials, or keys, are stored securely in the EMV card's chip and are impervious to access by unauthorized parties. These credentials therefore help to prevent card skimming and card cloning, one of the common ways magnetic stripe cards are compromised and used for fraudulent activity.

Second, in an EMV chip transaction, the card is authenticated as being genuine, the cardholder is verified, and the transaction includes dynamic data and is authorized online or offline, according to issuer-determined risk parameters. As described above, each of these transaction security features helps to prevent fraudulent transactions.

Third, even if fraudsters are able to steal account data from chip transactions, this data cannot be used to create a fraudulent transaction in an EMV chip or magnetic stripe environment, since every EMV transaction carries dynamic data.

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