Last News:

santander credit card activation online withdraw cash from atm lost credit card barclays shell credit card lost or stolen tj maxx credit card application status wells fargo stolen card hotline

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

John Ganotis

John Ganotis

Updated Sep 22, 2017

What Is EMV Technology?

EMV is a standard for storing account information in credit cards. It’s an alternative to the magnetic stripe that has traditionally been used to store information on the backs of cards in the United States.

EMV is a more secure way to store information, providing better protection against identity and credit card theft, because it can’t be as easily “skimmed” by fake credit card readers.

Credit card with EMV Chip

EMV stands for “Europay, MasterCard, and Visa,” the three companies who began this initiative. There are two main types of EMV technology: Chip-and-Signature and Chip-and-PIN.

Today, almost any credit card you get in the U.S. uses Chip-and-Signature technology in addition to a magnetic stripe, but some cards include Chip-and-PIN so they’re more compatible overseas or more secure in the U.S.

Frequently Asked EMV Questions

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

  • Chip-and-Signature cards require you to sign a 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 when you use a debit card. This PIN is a second factor of authentication, required to complete the transaction, and it is generally seen as more secure than a signature since the PIN is either objectively correct or incorrect. The alternative, Chip-and-Signature, relies on a cashier to subjectively determine if a customer’s signature at the checkout matches the signature on the back of the 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?

Data on a magnetic stripe can be easily read any time the card passes through a reader. Criminals can attach a magnetic stripe reader over an existing card reader, for example at a gas pump, to capture data about ever card that is inserted. The customer may not notice, since the transaction can still go through normally — the information is just being “skimmed” as the card is inserted and removed from the legitimate card reader.

EMV is a less passive system: the data on an EMV chip can’t be read as the card is inserted or removed from another reader the way it can be with magnetic stripes. However, many cards still include a magnetic stripe, so they may be susceptible to skimming any time they’re passed through a reader that can read the magnetic stripe. See this page of Krebs on Security that shows many real life examples of skimmers and other devices that are used to steal credit card information.

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

Rather than sliding your card through a card reader, you insert it into a terminal slot and leave it there until the transaction is complete. This has been nicknamed “card dipping.”

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.

Some retailers have already completed a change to accepting cards with EMV chips and preferring that system for transactions, and in their stores you’ll find terminals that let you insert your card into the bottom of the reader.

Sometimes, a checkout terminal will look like it accepts chip cards, but the chip reader will not work or will be physically blocked. This is most likely because the retailer has plans to switch over to EMV-compliant hardware and software and has already upgraded their terminals, but the full system is not yet ready to accept those cards.

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

EMV Liability Shift – Changes to Card-Related Fraud Liability

There are three important 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 was 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. Parties that still rely on magnetic stripes are now liable for the fraud, which was not the case in the past.

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 excluded automated fuel dispensers at gas stations, which were allowed continue to operate with magnetic stripe without losing liability protection.

October 1st, 2016

On this date, ATM fraud was included in the new liability rules, with the least-compliant party being held liable.

October 1st, 2017

On 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 $49 that works with chip cards and wireless payment technologies, like Apple Pay and Android Pay.

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. were expected to be EMV-ready, and only 41% of debit cards 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 were 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 that never had a different system before EMV.

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).

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%

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

Barclaycard is one of the only major issuers in the U.S. that offers cards with Chip-and-PIN technology.

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

Chip-and-Signature Cards in the United States

Currently, most chip cards in the U.S. are chip-and-signature only. If a card is issued in the U.S. but not on the list of Chip-and-PIN cards above, it’s likely Chip-and-Signature.

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 Chip-and-PIN card when traveling outside the country.

Prepaid Chip-and-PIN Debit Cards

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 instead of extending you credit like a credit card. 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 usually have the option to create your own PIN if you want.

Prepaid Card Options

There are several options on the market for prepaid Chip-and-PIN debit cards:

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

Was this helpful?

The Insider

Brendan Harkness
Review of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Brendan Harkness | Nov 14, 2017

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is popular for its rewards, but is this card right for you? Read our review to decide for yourself.

Read More
Brendan Harkness
Review of the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®
Brendan Harkness | Nov 01, 2017

Barclaycard CashForward World Mastercard earns 1.5% cash back. How does that compare to other cash back cards? Find out here.

Read More
Brendan Harkness
Review of the American Express Blue Cash Everyday® and Blue Cash Preferred® Cards
Brendan Harkness | Oct 20, 2017

The Blue Cash Everyday & Blue Cash Preferred Cards from American Express are popular for their rewards, but is one of them right for you? Read to find out.

Read More