As you're probably well aware, U.S. merchants and card issuers began the migration away from credit cards that you "swipe" towards cards with EMV technology that are meant to be "dipped" throughout 2015. This change was implemented after the U.S. decided to hasten the transition to EMV technology that is already prevalent in Europe, but it hasn't been entirely wrinkle-free. With any large change in how payments are offered and received, there will always be problems.
One problem, it seems, is that EMV technology in the U.S. may not be entirely safe – at least not yet. Not only is EMV technology functionality different in the U.S. than it is in say, Europe, it's also important to note that certain retailers haven't been required to make the transition yet.
3 EMV Chip Credit Cards You May Not Know About
As you get used to using your EMV-enabled credit card, here are some risks you should know about:
Chip and signature isn't as safe as "chip and pin"
Most EMV transactions in Europe and elsewhere are "chip and pin," meaning the purchaser must dip their card into the terminal then enter a pin number to complete their transaction. The pin itself adds an additional layer of protection since, like with any other pass code, only the card's owner should know it.
However, most cards and terminals in the U.S. are currently set up to accept the chip technology with a signature. Since signatures aren't usually checked and can be easily duplicated or copied, this second tier of protection doesn't really exist for transactions made here. Look for the U.S. to move towards chip and pin technology in the future, but it may take a while to get there.
Gas stations and ATMs are more susceptible
Where most retailers were required to update to the new EMV technology by October of 2015 to avoid greater liability for fraudulent purchases, there were a few notable exceptions – gas stations and ATMs. At this point, gas stations and ATMS aren't required to update their card reader's technology until October 2017, which has left these two sectors especially vulnerable to fraud. As more retailers and business with point of sale operations tighten security, scammers are expected to set their sights on ATMs and gas stations, which are the two soft targets left.
EMV technology doesn't protect you from "skimmers"
Speaking of fraud, one of the most popular ways fraudsters get new credit information is through the use of "skimmers" – devices created to fit over a card reader and copy data from your card's magnetic stripe without your knowledge or consent. Since skimmers are largely undetectable and certainly not obvious, these devices have become a popular tool for scammers to glean your credit card details and personal information.
While this new credit card technology was created to add another layer of security to point of sale transactions, it hasn't quite reached its full potential in the United States yet. Until that day comes, it's best for all of us to use our cards with caution at all times, taking special care to only use ATMs and gas pumps we deem safe.
Depending on our spending, most of us would also be better off sticking to credit cards instead of debit cards as well. Where debit cards offer minimal protection against fraudulent purchases, most credit cards offer zero fraud liability. With zero fraud liability, you won't be on the hook for a single cent you didn't charge yourself.
As EMV technology continues to evolve here at home, it's up to us to keep our personal information – and our credit cards – safe.