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Why EMV Credit Cards Will be Your New Favorite Cards

[Sunday, July 13th, 2014]

If you follow credit card news, you’ve probably heard a lot about EMV cards lately, or maybe chip-and-pin cards, or contactless payment cards.

You may not know, though, what these things are, whether they are different from each other, and most importantly – how they will impact your everyday life. You also may not realize that once you use one, they will likely become your new favorite type of credit card.

What is an EMV card?

An EMV card contains a microchip embedded into it. This chip transmits your payment information securely for each transaction. Every time you pay for something using this type of card, a new encrypted transaction is created, making it much more secure than a traditional magnetic stripe card.

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa – the three entities that partnered to spearhead the technology. If you hear the term “chip-and-pin card,” that is just another name for an EMV compliant card. And contactless payments can also include EMV cards, though it is more often used to refer to payments made by mobile phone app interfaces.

No more swiping

One reason these cards are known as contactless is that you can simply tap or wave them across the payment station, rather than swiping them. Tap-to-pay or wave payments both refer to EMV cards. There is no magnetic stripe to swipe on an EMV card, although some cards do contain both an EMV chip and a magnetic stripe.

To use the tap-to-pay system, you must be at a store or sales terminal that is equipped with an EMV card reader. That’s why many EMV cards in circulation in the U.S. now have both options. Merchants have been slow to adapt to EMV payments and there are still many places that cannot accept them.

More secure

Stores like Target, which have been affected by data breaches that compromised their customers’ payment data, are rushing to switch to EMV payment cards and terminals, which will protect sensitive payment transaction details.

If your card issuer switches to EMV cards, there will be no charge to you. A new card will be mailed to you and you can continue to use your account as you did before. You will only have to learn to get the hang of tapping instead of swiping.

Useful overseas

Travelers will especially be glad to see EMV payment cards become standard. Europe, Canada, Asia and other countries embraced EMV technology before the U.S. got on board, and as a result, some Americans found themselves abroad without a working credit card. Many places in Europe, especially payment kiosks like those in buses and parking lots, cannot accept magnetic stripe cards.

That is one reason that the first U.S. cards to be offered as EMV cards tended to be travel credit cards. These cards were marketed toward people who frequently traveled internationally and often had hefty annual fees.

But now, EMV cards are on the way for more of us – and you will want to make sure you have one in your wallet.

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