EMV chip cards made their debut in the U.S. last fall, and some retailers are still struggling to get the technology implemented in their stores.
The switch from magnetic-stripe cards has meant not just new cards, but new payment processes, as well, which some folks have found frustrating. While the transition hasn’t been easy for some businesses and consumers, it means greater protection against fraud for a wide range of transactions.
Unlike the old magnetic-stripe cards, EMV chip cards create a unique transaction code that cannot be used again. For example, if a hacker stole the chip information from one specific transaction, it wouldn’t be usable again.
“Issuers do not want their cards to be used at point of sale with a magnetic stripe anymore, as the stripe is highly susceptible to compromise, where chip-based transactions are not,” Seth Ruden, a senior fraud consultant with Florida-based ACI Worldwide, said in an email.
While EMV technology doesn’t prevent data breaches from occurring, it can make it much harder for criminals, except in circumstances where the chip’s encryption capabilities aren’t used. Here are three scenarios where using a chip card won’t make your transaction any safer.
1. Online & Over the Phone
Buying some new shoes online? Ordering flowers over the phone from the local florist for your aunt’s birthday? These “card-not-present transactions” mean your debit orcredit card details, most often including not just your name and card number, but also the three-digit CVV code, must be shared in full. The EMV chip card’s encryption is completely bypassed in these cases, and a chip card is no more or less safe than a non-chip card.
2. At Retailers Still Using Swipe Machines
While businesses that accept credit and debit cards could face increased liability for fraudulent transactions conducted with stolen cards or data if they don’t have EMV readers in place, there’s no law mandating that they actually have them. So, if you’re purchasing something at a store that still requires you to swipe your card, any additional protections offered by the chip aren’t doing you or the merchant (or the card issuer) any good.
“Anything that is magnetic stripe based is holding back the security efforts, and exposing the bank, merchant and the cardholder to prolonged risk-exposure during this transition period,” Ruden said in an email.
3. When Your Card Is Carbon Copied (Old-School Style)
Remember the old manual credit card imprinters? The merchant lays your card in the little slot, places the carbon copy receipt on top then pushes the imprinter handle over it, making that satisfying “ka-chunk” sound?
Or how about when the delivery guy runs that same carbon copy receipt over your card and runs his pen across it?
If you’re getting a delivery, or if you’re at a merchant who is experiencing a power loss or other digital failure, your chip card isn’t going to make a bit of difference in protecting the transaction from possible fraud. There are now pieces of paper with your card details on it that can be lost or stolen.
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself from stolen credit card information is to regularly check your account statements for signs of fraud. You can also spot possible fraud through sudden, unexpected changes in your credit score. You can keep track of that by getting your free credit report summary, which is updated every month on Credit.com and includes two of your credit scores. As soon as you identity something suspicious, act quickly to minimize the damage.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
Constance is an editor and writer at Credit.com. Prior to joining us, she worked as an editor for MSN.com, senior digital producer for CNBC, and digital producer for NBC Nightly News.
She also is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York, has worked for chefs such as April Bloomfield and Jean Georges Vongerichten, and is the founder of Crave Personal Chef Services in Austin, Texas. More by Constance Brinkley-Badgett