Though 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.
- American Express
- Platinum and Business Platinum (by request)
- Centurion (by request)
- Andrews Federal Credit Union GlobeTrek Visa Rewards Card (Chip and PIN) – CU membership available to military or by joining the America Consumer council, which is free
- Bank of America
- AAA Member Rewards Visa (by request)
- Alaska Airlines Visa (by request)
- Asiana Airlines American Express (by request)
- BankAmericard Cash Rewards
- BankAmericard Power Rewards
- BankAmericard Privileges Cash Rewards Visa Signature
- BankAmericard Travel Rewards Visa
- Hawaiian Airlines Visa (by request)
- MERRILL+ Visa Signature Credit Card
- Norwegian Cruise Line World Mastercard (by request)
- NEA credit cards
- Royal Caribbean Visa (by request)
- Total Merrill Cash Back Visa Signature Credit Card
- Virgin Atlantic American Express
- British Airways Visa Signature
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- The Hyatt Credit Card
- JP Morgan Select Visa Signature
- JP Morgan Palladium Credit Card
- Marriott Rewards Premier Visa
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
- Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card
- Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®
- Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card
- Citi ThankYou® Premier Card
- Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card
- Citi® Dividend® Card for College Students
- Commerce Bank Visa Signature
- City National Bank Credit Cards
- Hawaii State Federal Credit Union Credit Cards
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union – membership open to military, or anyone with a donation to the National Military Family Association
- PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa® Card
- PenFed Promise Visa® Card
- PenFed Gold Visa® Card
- PNC Premier Traveler, PNC Premier Traveler Reserve
- Silicon Valley Bank World Elite™ MasterCard® for Business
- State Department Federal Credit Union EMV Visa Platinum Credit Card – SDFCU membership available to members of these organizations or by donating to the American Consumer Council
- United Nations Federal Credit Union Visa Elite Credit Card (Chip and PIN) – membership restricted to UN-affiliated customers, details here
- US Bank
- U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Travel Rewards Visa® Card
- U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® card
- Various USAA Mastercards (Chip and PIN)
- Wells Fargo Visa Signature(by invitation)
- Wings Financial Credit Union – The Wings Visa® Signature Credit Card. Membership available to employees of the US air transportation industry and their family, as well as anyone living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Seattle/Tacoma metro areas
Want to keep up with the latest credit card deals?
- The Best Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees: A Comprehensive List - September 1, 2011
- EMV Credit Cards to Become Standard by October 2015 - February 7, 2014
- Chase Enhances Hyatt Card Benefits, Adds EMV Chip Technology - March 1, 2012