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Will Chip-and-Pin Technology Keep Your Data Safe?

Target. Neiman Marcus. Michaels. It seems you can’t read the news lately without hearing of a data breach at a major retailer. The Target breach alone compromised the credit card and personal information of more than 70 million customers.

The culprit in all these instances (besides the criminals, of course), is the outdated magnetic strip technology still used on most credit and debit cards. Card issuers and retailers have continued to use it because it’s cheaper to produce and retailers are equipped with the point of purchase ‘swipe’ machines. However, they can no longer deny the need to keep consumers’ data secure. Enter ‘chip-and-pin’ technology. chip-and-pin

Widely used in Europe since 2006, chip-and-pin technology uses an encrypted computer chip embedded in the card, rather than a magnetic strip, to store data. And instead of using a signature to authorize transaction, consumers enter a four-digit pin code. These measures make the cards much more difficult to counterfeit and keep consumer data more secure. Credit card fraud has decreased dramatically in Canada and the U.K. since the introduction of chip-and-pin.

But the transition to chip-and-pin won’t happen overnight. Chip-and-pin cards cost more to produce, which adds expense on the card issuers’ end. And retailers will have to change all their point of sale terminals at the cost of up to $600 per terminal. Despite the increased costs, both Mastercard and Visa have announced October, 2015, as the target date to have new chip-and-pin cards in their customers’ hands. And it’s only a matter of time until other card issuers follow suit.

It’s important to remember that while chip-and-pin can keep your information more secure during face to face transactions, credit and debit card information may still be vulnerable when used to make online purchases.

Continue taking common sense precautions when using credit and debit cards in any setting, keep an eye on your statements for any suspicious charges and notify your card company or bank immediately if you suspect any fraudulent use of your card or any other personal information.