Come October 1, the way we pay with credit and debit cards will start to change.
Rather than swiping our plastic like we’ve been doing for years, we’ll start “dipping” our cards into a terminal slot. A microchip, found on the front of these new cards, will be read instead of the traditional magnetic stripes found on the back of cards.
This new technology, called EMV, aims to combat fraud and improve security.
While the shift to card “dipping” may be uncomfortable initially, it ultimately aims to better your financial security.
“Whenever change is happening, it’s natural to ask, ‘What does this mean for me?'” MasterCard product expert Carolyn Balfany tells Business Insider. “What it should mean is less disruption. It should mean that your information will be stolen much less frequently, and you won’t have to get new cards as often.”
Chip technology should result in less credit card skimming — a fraudster’s go-to method for stealing card information. The vulnerable magnetic stripes on traditional cards contain unchanging data, so if a skimmer manages to steal that data, they can copy it onto a counterfeit card and make purchases.
The microchips embedded on the new EMV cards are much more secure. The chip creates a unique, one-time code every time a transaction is made — because the card’s information changes following each purchase, data skimmed from a thief is useless.
This is not an end-all solution to fraud. The new technology only affects in-store purchases, meaning fraud may become more concentrated in online spaces.
In fact, when European countries started implementing EMV technology several decades ago, fraud activity migrated to the United States, Balfany tells us, as it was one of the only countries still using the less-secure “magstripe” cards.
While EMV implementation is a baby step forward, it’s not a comprehensive solution to fraud.
The major card networks — Visa, Discover, MasterCard, and American Express — are front-running this transition by introducing a liability shift. This shift will not affect the customer, but will affect the merchants and banks.
Currently, if you fall victim to credit card fraud, your issuing bank will pick up the tab and insure you.
Starting October 1, the responsibility will shift to the merchants — if they’re still using the old “swipe and sign” system and don’t accept a chip-enabled card. It works the other way around as well. If the merchant has the new terminal but the bank hasn’t started using a chip card, the bank will be responsible.
If both parties have upgraded to the new technology, the issuing bank will insure you like it does today.
This means there’s incentive for merchants to start updating their in-store terminals to be EMV-compliant, and for banks to start issuing new, chip-enabled cards.
And at the end of the day, consumers shouldn’t stress over the nationwide shift we’re about to experience, Balfany emphasises: “It’s a change, but I would remind consumers that they are never liable for fraudulent transactions.”
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