EMV Countdown: Do You Have to Have It?

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Call this a gaping digital divide, where the cool credit cards come with an embedded computer chip and the definitely uncool cards have the same dowdy magnetic stripe that long been a playpen for crooks and scamsters.

Odds are 99 to 1 you don't have a so-called chip and PIN card - although if you lived in Europe the odds would be 99 to 1 that you would. Ditto for living in Canada, where chip and PIN - also known as EMV or Europay, MasterCard and Visa for the prime movers behind it - has been in wide use for a couple years.

The reason for chip and PIN adoption in much of the world? It's a more secure card. And, because it packs a tiny computer, it knows things about its owner (such as the unique PIN or personal identity number) associated with the card. When a financial institution deploys chip and PIN, in that instant it puts skimmers out of business, because their gear cannot copy what's on the chip.

The other reason to want one now: more point of sale terminals, especially in Europe, only take chip and PIN cards. Try to swipe a mag stripe card at those terminals, and it is sternly rejected.

That's triggered loud outrage on the part of Americans abroad who suddenly find their credit cards are useless, and that is why pioneering institutions such as the New York based United Nations Federal Credit Union have begun issuing chip and PIN cards at least to customers who are known to travel overseas.

What is keeping you from having a walletful of chip and PIN cards is one word: money. Deployment of the technology in the United States is stalled.