Cards: Magnetic Strip vs. Chip-and-Pin

US banks are starting to convert their standard magnetic stripe cards to chip-and-pin (a technology that is now 15 years old), to keep up with the now-dominant standard in Europe. In recent years, American travelers in Europe have found that many merchants do not accept magnetic stripe cards at all.

More than 1.34 billion EMV cards dot the globe, according to EMVCo, the U.K.-based, industry-owned organization that manages the EMV chip standard. (EMV is an acronym for Europay, MasterCard and Visa — the developers of the standard.)

The US has been behind in part because of the costs of upgrading the necessary infrastructure in order to accept such cards. The benefits of such an upgrade are more than convenience, though — the security features of smart cards prevent most credit card fraud.

Despite the fact that the U.S. only accounts for 27 percent of the world’s cash purchases, 47 percent of the world’s credit fraud happen here. EMV chips can’t be read by the card scanners thieves typically use to inconspicuously steal credit card information.

E.M.V.-enabled chip cards, requiring a PIN for authentification, are harder to counterfeit and are becoming the standard in other regions, including Canada, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.



Floro, Zachry. “Americans Better Get Ready to Ditch the Old Magnetic Stripe Card.” Business Insider. 30 July 2012.

Geffner, Marcie. “Who Should Take a SmartCard on their Next Trip Abroad?” Business Insider. 12 April 2102.

Higgins, Michelle. “How To Avoid Credit Card Problems Abroad.” New York Times. 8 June 2011.


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