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Chip Into Security

Most of our credit/debit cards now have chip technology, but sometimes it’s hard to know when and where to use them. Some merchants want you to use the chip, some terminals have a chip slot but aren’t set up for use yet, and some don’t have chip slots at all. What’s the deal?

Here’s what you need to know about chip-enabled credit/debit cards:

  • Try “dipping” your chip first. Using the chip is more secure than using the magnetic stripe, so try that first. The terminal or store associate will let you know if you need to swipe instead. The chip on your card is more secure than the magnetic stripe. The magnetic stripe contains information about your card such as your card number that can be read and copied fairly easy. The chip, on the other hand, is actually a tiny computer that is able to identify itself in a way that is very difficult to copy.
  • My chip-enabled card has a magnetic stripe. Can that still be copied? Well, yes. But generally speaking, if your card is chip-enabled and so is the merchant terminal, the terminal won’t accept magnetic stripe data or fraudulent data copied from your card.
  • My card doesn’t have a chip. How do I get one? Is it worth requesting? Most card issuers include chips in newly-issued cards. Having a card with a chip can prevent someone from using a counterfeit version of your card at a retailer that accepts chip cards. If your card information is compromised it can still be used online and at retailers that aren’t prepared to accept the chip. However, if you are interested in the extra peace of mind from knowing someone can’t skim your card, consider asking your issuer if they can send you a new card with a chip.
  • Keep your chip in working condition. Generally speaking, the chip in your card is pretty resilient. It’s more scratch-resistant than the magnetic stripe and isn’t affected by magnets.
  • Be patient. Because the card has to remain in the terminal while the transaction is processed, it can seem like transactions take longer to process. But don’t worry, the transaction still takes about the same amount of time and the extra security is worth it.
  • Don’t sweat it. As a consumer, having the chip shouldn’t make a big difference in our day-to-day lives. Either the merchant or your card issuer, not you, is still liable for fraudulent transactions. Always be sure to monitor your card statements so you can report any fraudulent activity promptly.
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