Every credit card in the U.S. will be replaced by October 2015 with new cards that contain the chip-and-PIN technology that the rest of the world has had for years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Both Visa and MasterCard are committed to the switch, which will render extinct the plastic in your wallets and purses right now.
No more black magnetic stripes; no more signing on the dotted line.
Americans who have traveled to Europe in recent years will know that the U.S.’s credit card system is embarrassingly old-fashioned by comparison. It’s often difficult to use American credit cards abroad because the Europeans abandoned magnetic stripes and signatures years ago — they were too easily hacked. Credit and debit cards in the U.S. are about 10 years behind the rest of the world.
The new cards contain a microchip and require the owner to enter a PIN number into a payment machine at checkout.
They are more secure for a couple of reasons.
First, requiring the PIN prevents checkout staff from handling your card — they will simply hand you the point-of-sale device and customers will insert their cards and verify payment themselves. Currently, when a checkout staffer takes your card, they can surreptitiously swipe it through a card-copying machine, or simply copy the number on it. A version of this hack was used to steal 70 million credit card numbers from Target customer between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hackers altered the point-of-sale machines to copy the info on the magnetic stripe as it was swiped. With chip-and-PIN, the number on the chip alone is useless — you need the PIN too, and that can be changed anytime.
Second, the chip replaces the magnetic stripe, which is easily copied and therefore vulnerable to hackers, as the Target sting proved. In France, chip-and-PIN allegedly reduced credit-card fraud by 80% (although the sourcing for this number is vague).
In fact, the reason the U.S. is being forced into making the chip-and-PIN change now is that the fraud industry migrated from Europe to America simply because U.S. cards were easier to hack than the European ones, according to MasterCard’s Carolyn Balfany, the company’s expert on the change.