Everything You Need to Know About Chip Credit Cards

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A credit card with an EMV chip.

Getting your credit card information stolen is a terrible feeling. It can make you feel violated and unsafe. Not to mention the headache of making sure you change the credit card number on all your auto pay bills and scanning your statement to make sure there are no other fraudulent charges.

The good news is that new credit card chip technology can help protect your information.  

What is a Chip Card?

A chip card is one that uses EMV technology to help protect your information when you make a purchase. EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, which are the companies that originally developed the chip technology you see in a lot of credit cards today. The cards are more secure than the ones with just a magnetic strip. Companies in Europe have been using the technology for years and now we're getting caught up here in the U.S. 

Why are Chip Cards Safer?

The cards you're probably most used to have a magnetic strip on the side that you slide in the card reader. When you slide the strip, the reader gets your account information and sends a message to move money from that account to the retailer where you're trying to make a purchase. The trouble with the magnetic strip is that every time you make a transaction it's using the same number. Once a thief has access to that number, it's easy to keep making purchases with your card. 

The EMV cards are a little more sophisticated. Instead of using a magnetic strip, they have a tiny microprocessor chip inside of them. That's the part you insert into the chip reader when you're ready to make a transaction. It passes the same information from your account to the retailers' as the strip does, but it uses a unique code for every transaction. So, even if a thief can steal the code from one transaction, they won't be able to use the same code the next time. 

What if the Store Doesn't Have a Chip Reader?

Most places have a chip reader, but you might still come across some stores that only have the magnetic strip reader. In that case, you can still use your card by swiping instead of "dipping" into the chip reader. 

Even Chip Cards Aren't Perfect

Even EMV cards can't completely protect you from credit card fraud. So you should always make sure you:

  • Check your statement often and call your credit card company immediately if you see a charge you didn't make
  • Protect yourself from credit card skimmers by looking for anything out of the ordinary on credit card readers, especially at places like pay-at-the-pump gas stations. 
  • Never give your credit card information out over email
  • Never give your credit card information to someone who called you on the phone — even if they say they're from the credit card company. Instead, offer to call them back at the number listed on your credit card so you can be sure you're talking with a verified company representative. 
  • Keep the software on your phone and computer up to date. Updates often have security protections baked into them. 
  • Only shop at trusted online stores 
  • Follow tips to stay safe online
  • Shred any credit card statements you have laying around