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EMV ‐‐ which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa ‐‐ is a global standard for cards equipped with computer chips and the technology used to authenticate chip‐card transactions. In the wake of numerous large‐scale data breaches and increasing rates of counterfeit card fraud, U.S. card issuers are migrating to this new technology to protect consumers and reduce the costs of fraud.
For merchants and banks, the switch to EMV means adding new in‐store technology and internal processing systems, and complying with new liability rules. For cardholders, it means activating new cards and learning new payment processes. Most of all, it means greater protection against fraud.
1. Why are EMV cards more secure than traditional cards?
It's that small, metallic square you'll see on new cards. That's a computer chip, and it's what sets apart the new generation of cards. The magnetic stripe on a traditional credit and debit card stores contains sensitive card and cardholder information necessary to make purchases. That makes traditional cards prime targets for counterfeiters.
Unlike traditional magnetic‐stripe cards, every time an EMV card is used for payment, the card chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again. If a hacker stole the chip information from one specific point of sale, typical card duplication would never work because the stolen transaction number created in that instance wouldn't be usable again and the card would just get denied.
EMV technology will not prevent data breaches from occurring, but it will make it much harder for criminals to successfully profit from what they steal.
2. How do I use an EMV card to make a purchase?
Just like magnetic‐stripe cards, EMV cards are processed for payment in two steps: card reading and transaction verification. However, with EMV cards you no longer have to master a card swipe in the right direction. Chip cards are read in a different way. Instead of going to a register and swiping your card, you are going to do what is called 'card dipping', which means inserting your card into a terminal slot and waiting for it to process. When an EMV card is dipped, data flows between the card chip and the issuing financial institution to verify the card's legitimacy and create the unique transaction data.
4. Will I still have to sign or enter a PIN for my card transaction?
Yes. 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. 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.
5. If fraud occurs after EMV cards are issued, who will be liable for the costs?
As of Oct. 1, 2015 (a deadline created by major U.S. credit card issuers MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express) the liability for card‐present fraud shifted to whichever party is the least EMV‐compliant in a fraudulent transaction.
6. So after the October 2015 deadline, the transition to EMV technology is complete?
Although the October deadline was strong encouragement for all payment processing parties to become EMV‐compliant as soon as possible, experts do not believe everyone has complied yet. It is estimated that by the end of 2015, approximately 70 percent of credit cards and 41 percent of debit cards in the U.S. will support EMV.
7. 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 already in consumers' hands ‐‐ will be equipped with both chip and magnetic‐stripe functions so consumer spending is not disrupted and merchants can adjust.
8. What about mobile payment readers?
Retailers using mobile payment devices such as “Square” will also have to purchase new equipment to read the chips on EMV cards. Square has designed EMV‐compatible card readers for Android and iOS devices that can read contactless mobile payments and also process dipped chip cards. Merchants can currently pre‐order the new payment devices for $49. Until Square‐based retailers upgrade, your new EMV cards will be processed without the added layer of encryption security the card chip provides.
9. 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. However, chip‐and‐PIN cards are the norm in most other countries that support EMV technology. So consumers with chip‐and‐signature cards may still find merchants who are unwilling or unable to process their card, even though it does have an embedded chip.