U.S. Credit Cards with Smart Chip Technology

Secure Chip Credit CardThough American credit card companies have been slow to adopt it, smart chip technology is a feature that you may want to look for in your next card. The benefits are primarily twofold: 1) it makes your international travel easier, as many merchants, especially in Europe, will not accept credit cards without a chip, and 2) it makes your credit card information more secure, a benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked in light of the recent Target data breach.

What is a chip-based card?
Currently, the overwhelming majority of credit cards issued in the U.S. use old-fashioned magnetic stripe technology, where information is transmitted to banks and card issuers without significant encryption. In contrast, chip-based cards add an additional layer of fraud protection that transforms cardmember information into a unique code when used at a chip-enabled terminal that is difficult to duplicate or copy.

While there is a lot of different terminology in use for chip-based cards (eg. Chip Card, EMV card, Smart Chip, etc.), they all basically are referring to the same technology. EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, who maintain the chip technology standards.

“Chip and PIN” vs. “Chip and Signature”
In practice, these chip-based credit cards fall into two categories: 1) “Chip and PIN” cards and 2) “Chip and Signature” cards.

“Chip and PIN” credit cards generate new random codes for each transaction and require the consumer’s PIN number, making them much more secure. “Chip and Signature” cards are more similar to traditional magnetic stripe cards, only they can be used at chip-enabled terminals that require you to insert the card rather than swipe it, and then sign for the transaction. Currently, the chip-based cards that are available in the U.S. are almost all of the “Chip and Signature” variety. In contrast, “Chip and PIN” is more of the standard in Europe. As such, even if you get a “Chip and Signature” card, you won’t be able to use it everywhere in Europe. However, you’ll still find that they are useable in more places abroad than magnetic stripe credit cards.

Sadly, most U.S. credit cards are still of the magnetic stripe variety because chip technology is expensive and isn’t required by American merchants. Industry officials say chips should be standard in credit cards in the United States by the end of 2015, but that is still a long ways off.

List of EMV Credit Cards Available in the U.S.
In the meantime, though, I’ve put together a list of cards that you can currently get that use EMV technology. Unless otherwise noted, they are of the “Chip and Signature” variety.

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