EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, and describes a global standard for cards equipped with computer chips as well as the technology used to authenticate transactions involving these cards. If you don't already have a chipped card, you probably will soon. Already standard in Europe, U.S. card issuers are transitioning over to this technology in order to protect customers against fraud.

How EMV Cards are Different

EMV, Chip, Credit Card

Given the numerous large-scale data breaches involving big-name retail chains and increasing rates of counterfeit card fraud, it seems that traditional magnetic strip cards just aren't secure enough. How does a tiny little computer chip make credit card/debit card transactions safer for the consumer?

It comes down to how information is stored on a card. Credit/debit cards with magnetic strips contain unchanging data, and if someone knows how to access this data, they will have all of the information necessary to make unauthorized purchases. This makes it easy for counterfeiters to steal and turn data into illegal profit.

On the other hand, the chip contained in an EMV card creates a unique transaction code for every point of sale that cannot be used again. This means that if a hacker tries to copy details from a transaction, the data obtained will be useless, and any attempt to reuse a transaction code will result in a denial.

Adjustments Needed for EMV Card Use

Using a card enabled with a chip is similar to making a purchase with a stripped card, but there are some noticeable differences.

  • Care to go for a dip? Instead of swiping, you'll "dip" your card into a reader. When you put your card into the terminal slot, you'll notice that it takes a little longer to process than a transaction performed with a card that is swiped.In order to give stores sufficient time to transition over to terminals that are capable of reading EMV cards, the first generation of chipped cards to be issued in the U.S. will also have magnetic strips. This way, customers won't have to endure trying to make a purchase from a place that can't process their card.
  • Check, please! Few people consistently carry cash with them these days, so leaving a tip on a card purchase at a restaurant is extremely common. You just write the gratuity amount on the receipt when you sign for the purchase. With EMV cards, the restaurant will be incapable of adding the tip to your bill after the transaction has taken place.This means that you will need to tell the server or cashier what you would like to leave as a tip before your card is processed. This could potentially be awkward if you've had less than excellent service and are planning on leaving little in the way of gratuity.

What Will We Call These Chipped Cards?

If you're reading up on EMV technology, you may notice that different sources refer to the cards by different names. This is because no universal agreement has yet been reached on what they should be called. All of these terms might apply:

  • Smart Card
  • Chip Card
  • Smart-Chip Card
  • Chip-Enabled Smart Card
  • Chip-and-Choice Card
  • EMV Smart Card
  • EMV Card

For now, just pick your favorite, and go with that.

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