Your Top 12 Chip Debit Card Questions Answered

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Wondering how your new chip debit card actually works? What about how safe it is? Or why the new card readers take so long to process?

We’ve got your answers! Here’s everything you need to know—well, everything we could fit into 12 questions, anyway.

Want to know more? Read our in-depth report on EMV chip cards.

1. What does EMV mean?

It stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa. These three companies joined forces to come up with your new chip-enabled technology.

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2. How do these cards work?

That little metallic microchip embedded in the front of your card allows your card to "talk" to the latest chip-enabled terminals at your favorite stores. When you put your card in, the chip technology creates a unique code for your transaction every time you checkout.

3. Why the big push for chip cards?

Basically, retailers and credit card companies are sick of losing money to hackers. Chip cards make stealing mass amounts of data extremely difficult.

4. What makes chip cards so secure?

Like we said, your chip card produces a one-time transaction code each time you buy something. So the retailer doesn’t even know your actual account or card number, and it can’t be hacked and stolen later from their system.

5. Why do retailers ask me to swipe my card when they clearly have a chip-enabled machine?

The process of getting a chip-enabled terminal is easier said than done. There’s more involved than just plugging them in and dipping your card. Retailers have to install special software and go through a certification process. Hang in there. You’ll be using the chip soon!

6. Who’s responsible if my card gets hacked?

Generally speaking, the card issuer (your bank) assumes the main responsibility for your account and it provides fraud and purchase protection backed by Visa and MasterCard. If you file a fraud claim, though, the bank will probably check to see if the retailer bears the burden. That’s a fight between the bank and the retailer. On your end, the bank should refund any money lost due to fraud.

7. Can I still hit "credit" at checkout?

If you’re using your chip debit card at an EMV chip-enabled retailer, you probably won’t have the option of choosing "credit" at checkout. That’s good, though, because chip debit cards are much more secure than your old magstripe card when used with a PIN.

8. Why does the chip card take so long?

When you insert your card into the reader, there’s a bunch of electronic communication going on between your card and the reader. It’s encrypting a new code, sending it off for verification, and authenticating the data. Trust us, increased security is worth a few extra seconds in the checkout lane.

9. Is it true that a thief can scan my card as I walk by and steal my information?

EMV chip cards are not RFID cards (radio-frequency identification cards). That means they don’t emit a radio wave that could be stolen by a bad guy with a card scanner.

10. What’s the big fuss about card skimmers?

Skimmers are small devices that fit over ATMs or magnetic card readers to steal your debit card information. This is a real issue to be aware of because your card still has a magnetic strip. When you’re at the ATM or a gas station, look for signs of tampering. If something looks fishy, go elsewhere or pay inside.

11. Since chip cards are so secure, am I safe if I lose my card?

No. The new chip cards still have an actual card number printed on them (for online or over-the-phone purchases). If someone steals your card number, they can make fraudulent purchases online with your digits or swipe your card’s magstripe at any store that still allows that process. So if you lose your card, call the issuer and cancel it right away.

12. Should I still get identity theft insurance?

Yes. Identity theft covers any manner of fraud, from someone stealing your social security number to someone opening a credit card in your name. Keep it. It’s worth the ten bucks a month.

Related: Check out Zander Insurance for identity theft insurance.

The Bottom Line:

Remember, it may still be a while until all (or even most) retailers switch to chip technology exclusively. But the fact that it’s finally happening is a good thing! It means more security for you and less money lost for everyone. So the next time you’re in the checkout lane, waiting for that noise to tell you to remove your card, smile. That’s the noise of a would-be hacker hitting his head against a computer keyboard.

Need more details? Read all about your new EMV debit card with our in-depth report.

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