Credit & Debt

How EMV (Chip) Credit Cards Work – Technology & Security

Do you utilize credit playing cards frequently? Perhaps you’ve gotten a favourite cash again rewards credit card that gives a small however significant return on each greenback you spend. Or perhaps you utilize a journey rewards credit card to earn factors or miles that may be redeemed totally free or reduced-cost flights, lodge stays, or automobile leases.

Whether you’re a recurring credit card person whose pockets is filled with plastic, or a considered spender who retains a single, lonely sq. available for emergencies solely, you’ve most likely obtained correspondence out of your issuers in regards to the swap to EMV (chip) technology. You’ve most likely obtained new playing cards within the mail too, full with little circuit-like chips on the entrance face.

The new playing cards nonetheless have magnetic stripes (magstripes), identical to the stripe-only variations they changed, to allow them to be used at old school card readers that don’t assist chip playing cards. But the playing cards’ issuers, in addition to the credit card networks that facilitate billions of credit card transactions per day, consider that chip playing cards characterize the way forward for plastic cost technology.

What was improper with the outdated, magstripe-only credit playing cards? In a nutshell, they (and their issuers) had been outmatched by cybercriminals whose more and more refined and brazen hacking methods allowed them to steal credit card numbers with impunity, leading to ever bigger, ever extra devastating knowledge breaches that affected hundreds of thousands of shoppers at a time. These breaches precipitated critical, lasting fame issues for large, respectable retailers like Target and Home Depot, to not point out untold psychological ache for the common Joes and Janes caught up within the turmoil.

The frequency of credit card fraud is staggering too. According to, the United States is arguably the credit card fraud epidemic’s international epicenter. Despite accounting for simply 21.4% of all credit card funds, the U.S. sees practically 50% of world credit card theft losses. U.S. credit card fraud charges have really elevated in recent times as issuers in different international locations switched to safer EMV playing cards.

Cybersecurity is an arms race, and the incentives to steal financial info are as highly effective as they’re plain. Therefore, EMV technology received’t fully remove credit card theft or large-scale knowledge breaches. Still, it’s doubtless to assist considerably. And there are another necessary causes for retailers and shoppers to undertake EMV technology, from international acceptance, to higher flexibility in low-connectivity environments.

This is what it’s worthwhile to find out about EMV (chip) credit card technology’s performance, historical past, advantages, and particular use circumstances.

EMV Credit Card Technology – How It Works and How to Use It

EMV stands for “Europay, MasterCard, and Visa.” The technology is known as for the three credit card networks that initially developed the protocol. The trendy model of EMV is now a world {industry} customary utilized by most main credit card issuers and networks, together with (importantly for U.S. shoppers) American Express. The EMV customary is backed and managed by EMVCo, an equitable consortium consisting of Discover, American Express, GraspCard, Visa, JCB, and China UnionPay.

According to, different widespread names for EMV credit playing cards embrace:

  • Chip playing cards
  • Smart playing cards
  • Smart chip playing cards
  • Chip-enabled sensible playing cards
  • Chip-and-PIN playing cards
  • Chip-and-signature playing cards
  • Chip-and-choice playing cards
  • EMV sensible playing cards

Whatever it’s referred to as, right here’s how EMV technology works.

How EMV Technology Works

Traditional magstripe credit playing cards are encoded with static cost info. When a magstripe card is stolen, the thief can instantly use it to make unauthorized transactions, then discard it with little danger of detection. The similar precept applies to card info stolen by credit card skimmers or computer hacks that unlock huge troves of credit card numbers. Thieves can use these useful bits of information themselves or reap tidy sums by promoting them in bulk to different unhealthy actors, together with credit card counterfeiters.

EMV playing cards comprise a computer chip that capabilities as a miniature processor and transmitter. Unlike conventional magstripe credit playing cards, the data contained on these chips is dynamic. Each new transaction produces a brand new, distinctive transaction code (often known as a “token”) utilizing the ideas of cryptography – much like the advanced mathematical structure behind cryptocurrencies. No two transaction codes are ever repeated, so every code turns into ineffective following the completion of the transaction it represents. Were a classy thief to steal a selected code from a selected level of sale, the code would haven’t any worth at any level sooner or later, with or with out the card that created it.

EMV credit card info may be saved in cell wallets, akin to Apple Pay and Android Pay, and used to make cell contactless funds. Even although the bodily chip shouldn’t be learn as a part of the cell cost course of, the saved card however creates the identical distinctive, safe transaction code for each new transaction.

Offline Payment Processing Capabilities
One of the important thing variations between EMV and magstripe playing cards is the timing and nature of the authorization course of. Magstripe authorization happens individually and on the spot, which means it requires a reside phone or Internet connection on the level of sale.

EMV authorization is extra versatile. When an EMV card is inserted right into a chip reader, the card basically tells the reader that it’s genuine, and the transaction is processed with none knowledge trade. Processed transactions are saved up till the tip of the business day, at which level the service provider connects to the Internet and authorizes the transactions in a single every day batch. Merchants who function in distant or low-connectivity areas, akin to at rural music festivals, worth the pliability afforded by offline cost processing capabilities.

EMV Credit Card Payment Procedures

For shoppers, the experience of paying with an EMV card is noticeably totally different than the experience of paying with a standard magstripe card. Instead of shortly swiping your card by way of the reader, you insert (or “dip”) the chip aspect of your card into the reader’s slender finish and depart it there throughout the authorization course of. If your chip card has NFC technology that allows contactless funds, you may merely maintain it near the reader till the authorization course of completes.

Nearly half of all EMV playing cards issued worldwide have contactless (or dual-interface) capabilities. However, dual-interface playing cards stay uncommon within the United States.

Chip-and-PIN vs. Chip-and-Choice
Some EMV techniques require you to enter a four-digit PIN throughout authorization, as you’ll if paying with a debit card. The chip-and-PIN system is very widespread abroad. In the United States, it’s extra widespread to signal the POS display or a printed receipt, as you’ll in a standard magstripe transaction. This is called chip-and-signature.

U.S. issuers are prone to part within the chip-and-PIN system over a interval of a number of years, with the last word aim of placing a chip-and-PIN card in each pockets in some unspecified time in the future within the reasonably distant future. During the prolonged transition, credit card readers will likely be “chip-and-choice,” which means they’ll settle for each chip-and-PIN and chip-and-signature transactions.

Transaction Time
Because EMV funds require fixed contact or proximity between the chip and the card reader throughout the authorization course of, they’ll really feel fairly drawn out. However, in keeping with Stephanie Ericksen, a Visa govt who offered background for a New York Times article on EMV playing cards, EMV technology isn’t really any slower than old-school stripe technology. It simply appears slower as a result of the card should keep within the reader till the authorization course of is full. By distinction, swiping a standard credit card takes solely a second, and also you’re then capable of put your card away earlier than the authorization course of really completes.

According to the Times, Visa’s new software repair, FastChip, permits shoppers to take away playing cards shortly after inserting them, with the transaction finishing as they put their playing cards away and begin wrapping up their purchases. It’s not clear when or how broadly FastChip will likely be adopted, however it’s doubtless to assist tackle the notion that EMV funds are sluggish.

History of EMV Credit Cards

Many Americans are stunned to study that chip card technology was developed within the Nineteen Eighties and has been used on business scales for years.

Early History and the Creation of the EMV Standard

The technical groundwork for chip playing cards was laid within the early Nineteen Eighties, because the semiconductor revolution gathered velocity. The first commercially obtainable chip playing cards debuted in France in 1986, and varied banks rolled out their very own variations all through the late Nineteen Eighties. Worried about worsening credit card fraud in Europe, the European Council for Payment Systems inspired banks and shoppers to undertake chip playing cards.

By 1992, most French card readers had chip-reading capabilities, and chip playing cards had been widespread and fairly acquainted to French shoppers. However, there was no industry-wide customary for his or her use. That created compatibility and acceptance points, particularly for international shoppers whose residence banks used totally different chip requirements (or no chips in any respect).

In 1993 and 1994, Europay (a serious European card community on the time) joined forces with Visa and GraspCard to create what was hoped could be a world chip card customary. Philip E. Andreae, then a Europay govt, instructed BankInfo Security that the EMV project had three primary objectives:

  1. Fraud Mitigation: The consortium members sought important safety enhancements over conventional magstripe playing cards. At that point, magstripe technology drove a worsening epidemic of credit card fraud in Europe. This is as a result of stolen playing cards might instantly be utilized in fraudulent transactions, and magnetic stripes might simply be copied by cheap credit card skimmers. They settled on a chip-based dynamic authorization system, which rendered stolen playing cards ineffective and which couldn’t be copied or mimicked below practical circumstances.
  2. Offline Authorization: At the time, telecommunications prices had been fairly excessive in continental Europe, and dependable Internet connections that would facilitate low cost, near-instantaneous authorization had been nonetheless just a few years off. According to Andreae, retailers would pay $0.30 or $0.40 per authorization to name the cardholder’s financial institution and ensure the card’s authenticity. To management this expense, they wouldn’t authorize each single transaction – by the mid-Nineties, the French authorization rate had risen to about 40%, in comparison with 99% or greater in North America. European retailers sought a system that allowed them to pre-authorize with out making a cellphone name or connecting to the Internet.
  3. Stronger Verification: The consortium members agreed that signatures weren’t sufficiently efficient for cardholder verification, particularly given the rising quantity of cross-border transactions in an ever extra related Europe. They settled on a PIN system, which added a layer of verification that (no less than in principle) solely cardholders themselves might present, and which couldn’t be solid like signatures.

Within just a few years, the EMV chip-and-PIN technique had develop into the de facto credit card cost regime in France. Over time, it unfold all through Europe, decreasing fraud and enhancing outcomes for retailers and shoppers alike. European cost terminals remained backwardly suitable, with stripe readers obtainable for shoppers wielding old school magstripe playing cards.

U.S. Adoption

Like the metric system, EMV lengthy gave the impression to be an efficient international customary that the United States had little interest in adopting. That lastly modified within the early 2010s, when the rising price of magstripe breaches spurred issuers and card networks to motion.

The main U.S. card issuers and networks, together with American Express, Visa, GraspCard, and Discover, set October 1, 2015, because the preliminary deadline for chip card adoption within the United States. Though magnetic stripe credit playing cards continued to work after that date, retailers had been strongly inspired to be arrange with chip readers by then.

They had a financial incentive to take action as properly: October 1, 2015, was the date of the dreaded “liability shift” for retailers, when liability for fraudulent in-person transactions devolved from card issuers to the person retailers that initiated these transactions. Since EMV funds are a lot safer than magstripe funds, the case for making the swap was self-evident. The liability shift hit GraspCard-accepting ATMs in October 2016 and can hit Visa-accepting ATMs a year later. Automated gasoline dispensers should swap by 2017 to keep away from liability.

According to The Washington Post, the full price of the EMV transition might exceed $8 billion, thanks largely to the excessive price of producing safe chip playing cards. Larger issuers had the resources to difficulty EMV playing cards early, in some circumstances properly upfront of the October 1, 2015, deadline. Smaller banks and credit unions took longer.

For the foreseeable future, U.S. card readers will likely be backwardly suitable. Even in case your financial institution takes years to difficulty chip playing cards, you’ll nonetheless be capable of use chip-less playing cards at your favourite retailers. By the identical token, whenever you attempt to swipe a chip card in a backwardly suitable reader, you’ll be prompted to insert it as a substitute.

Benefits of EMV Credit Cards

Given the size of the transition from magstripe to EMV within the United States, it’s price taking a more in-depth take a look at a number of the key advantages of EMV credit playing cards – lest you marvel why you need to hassle utilizing the brand new variations in any respect.

1. No Phone or Internet Connection Required

No cellphone or Internet connection is required to authorize EMV credit card transactions. Though a dependable connection is required to truly course of the cost, playing cards may be approved on the level of sale and processed in batches on the finish of the business day, or every time is handy for the service provider.

This profit was initially designed to bypass excessive telecommunications prices, however it’s now helpful in unconnected or low-connectivity environments akin to outside markets, festivals, and populated areas with poor communications infrastructure. From the patron’s perspective, it’s good to not have to attend for transactions to course of over sluggish Internet connections with no assure that they’ll ultimately undergo.

2. The Technology Is Not Necessarily Exclusive

New credit card readers are backwardly suitable, which means they’ll learn chips and magstripes with equal ease. This is prone to be the case for the foreseeable future, so shoppers whose banks drag their ft on adopting EMV don’t have to fret about waking up sooner or later to seek out their playing cards ineffective.

3. Chip Transactions Are More Secure

It’s arduous to consider that the U.S. was as soon as considered the developed world’s most safe credit card market. As different nations adopted EMV technology, that narrative flipped, and the U.S. has these days been the worldwide laggard in credit card safety. EMV adoption is nearly sure to cut back U.S. credit card fraud, no less than within the quick and medium phrases – although, within the everlasting battle between fraudsters and the safety group, it’s by no means sensible to guess towards fraudsters for very lengthy.

4. Chip Cards Are Accepted All Over the World

Prior to 2014 or so, most Americans had little day-to-day contact with chip playing cards. They solely noticed chip playing cards once they went abroad. By the early to mid-2010s, many abroad retailers had been solely reluctantly – or under no circumstances – accepting stripe card transactions, limiting Americans’ capacity to pay with their common credit playing cards. Travelers would carry extra cash to compensate, heightening the danger and penalties of theft whereas overseas.

The overwhelming majority of abroad retailers settle for U.S.-issued EMV playing cards. According to, Visa claims that roughly 97% of “U.S. Visa card transactions conducted overseas” had been accepted. If you’re carrying a chip card abroad, particularly in well-traveled, well-developed markets such because the Eurozone or Australia, you’re unlikely to have too many cost points.

Special Considerations for Card Not Present (CNP) Transactions

The largest chink in EMV playing cards’ safety armor entails card not current (CNP) transactions. Card not current transactions happen when the cost card shouldn’t be bodily within the presence of the service provider. Common examples embrace on-line and over-the-phone transactions, the place the person sorts the card quantity right into a digital area or speaks the quantity to a human clerk or automated cost system.

In card not current transactions, EMV chips will not be learn, so there’s no method to incontrovertibly verify that playing cards are genuine and in the precise arms. However, retailers can take steps to cut back the danger of fraud, past utilizing SSL certificates to guard the transmission of delicate knowledge over the Internet.

Three CNP fraud mitigation protocols are price calling out:

  1. Password-Protected Verification Software: Major card networks, together with American Express and Visa, have begun to undertake password-based verification software that requires customers to enter distinctive passwords at every transaction. This system’s impact is much like that of the chip-and-PIN method, which is the default customary for in-person transactions in Europe and another markets. Examples of password-based verification software embrace American Express SafeKey and Verified by Visa. Merchants and cardholders are strongly inspired to undertake these measures, although there’s one thing of a chicken-and-egg drawback at play, as a crucial mass of cardholders is important for retailers to seek out the measures worthwhile, and vice versa.
  2. Card Verification Value (CVV): The card verification worth, or CVV, is the three- or four-digit code on each credit card issued within the U.S. Because CVVs will not be encoded in playing cards’ chips, they continue to be secret to these with out the playing cards of their precise possession. Requiring patrons to enter their CVV codes is the quickest approach for retailers to make sure that they really have the playing cards they’re utilizing.
  3. Address Verification Service (AVS): AVS verifies addresses entered by CNP patrons towards precise billing addresses on file with card issuers. When addresses fail to match up identically, crimson flags are raised, and the transactions could also be declined because of this.

Online retailers with the resources to implement all three of those fraud mitigation protocols are strongly inspired to take action. Smaller distributors working on platforms akin to eBay and Etsy usually don’t need to deal with all of the technical work of implementing these protocols on their very own. Those issues are taken care of by the platforms themselves, which naturally have an curiosity in making certain safe, seamless credit card transactions.

Final Word

According to The New York Times, cell pockets and phone-based contactless cost adoption stays skinny. In 2015, simply 0.2% of all U.S. in-person transactions concerned a smartphone. The overwhelming majority went down the normal approach – with a fast swipe of a magstripe credit card.

In the approaching years, we all know that these swipes will develop into much less and fewer frequent. They’ll get replaced by the much less satisfying click on of credit playing cards being inserted into the slender finish of a reader.

What’s not as clear is whether or not these clicks have a sell-by date too. As the ability of smartphones grows and cell pockets technology improves additional, it’s fully doable that, a technique, cell contactless funds would be the default cost possibility for in-person transactions.

Do you utilize EMV credit playing cards? Do your favourite retailers settle for them?

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