By now, you’ve no doubt heard about EMV chip cards and how they provide better fraud protection than the traditional magnetic stripe versions when swiped at your local retailer. However, there’s a good chance one hasn’t made its way into your wallet. In fact, according to recent survey from Software Advice, 62% (of 200 surveyed consumers) said they did not have an EMV-enabled credit card.
Don’t freak out, though, if you’re similarly unequipped with a chip. Chances are, your new credit card — or even debit card — is in the mail.
“There may be some financial institutions that are truly laggards,” said Eric Lindeen, marketing director for Zoot Enterprises, a firm that provides credit analytics to financial institutions, but, by and large, “consumers over the next couple of weeks will probably see a large number of cards being reissued with the chips.”
And, if for some reason you don’t get one, your old magnetic stripe card will continue to work at your favorite retailers for now.
“I have heard no discussion of a timeline to phase out mag stripes,” Lindeen said. “It’s inevitable, but I don’t think it’s on the horizon for at least five to 10 years.”
A Matter of Liability?
The EMV chip transition is revving up, following the Oct. 5 deadline that saw a shift in network fraud liability rules. Before that date, financial institutions generally covered fraudulent charges. Now, merchants who have failed to upgrade to the safer EMV chip readers could be on the hook (instead of card issuers); consumers would not be.
Under federal law, consumers may be liable for up to $50 in fraudulent credit card charges. They could be held liable for up to $500 in fraudulent debit card charges if they report them within 60 days. (Beyond that window, losses could be unlimited.) Most major card issuers, however, have zero liability policies in place that can further shield consumers.
These protections won’t change because you don’t have a chip card. You similarly won’t up your odds of eating the cost of fraud if you have a chip, but swipe the magnetic stripe instead. In fact, in many cases, you’ll be prompted to redo the transaction.
On the new cards, “the mag stripe has a little piece of code in it that is designed to tell a chip-enabled terminal when it receives a mag stripe [swipe],” said Jason Oxman, CEO of the Electronics Transactions Association. In those instances, “the terminal actually will display a message to ‘please insert your chip card,'” he said.
Ask for an Upgrade
Of course, liability isn’t the only hassle associated with card fraud. It typically takes some time, for instance, for a replacement credit card to arrive in the mail and you could be left without a valuable payment method in the interim. Debit card fraud can be particularly problematic given the lesser fraud protections. Plus, an empty bank account can lead to missed payments and potential overdraft fees.
EMV chip cards are harder to counterfeit, given the chip generates a unique security code every time you swipe it. So, if you are chip-less and interested in potentially reducing the odds of having your card compromised this way, call your credit card company to see about expediting your upgrade.
“Almost every issuer will issue one on request,” Lindeen says.
One last thing to keep in mind: While your EMV chip certainly offers more security, it is, by no means, a failsafe when it comes to fraud. In fact, there’s some debate as to whether the cards will reduce total fraud overall or simply push counterfeiters toward fraudulent “card-not-present” transactions. (The chips, for instance, currently provide no additional protections when you use a credit card to shop online.)
As such, it’s always a good idea to stay vigilant when it comes to protecting your payment information. Best practices include monitoring all credit card or debit card statements regularly, reporting fraud as soon as you spot it to dispute charges and have the card replaced, using strong passwords to protect financial accounts, keeping all your security software up to date and shopping only on encrypted websites.
If you’re worried about other types of fraud, including identity theft, you can check your credit report regularly. You can view yours for free once a year an AnnualCreditReport.com or get a free credit report summary every month at Credit.com.
More on Credit Cards:
- Credit.com’s Expert Credit Card Shopping Tips
- How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit
- How to Get a Credit Card with Good Credit