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EMV chip technology coming to a credit card near you

By , CardRatings contributor
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Starting this month, overseas business travelers who carry Citi corporate credit cards can breathe a little easier when making purchases. And back in the States, regular Joe consumers may soon find themselves inserting instead of swiping their credit cards. Both these changes are thanks to a burgeoning EMV chip technology, which is about to get a leg up in the USA, according to a recent Visa press release.

Credit cards of the not-so-distant future will be embedded with an EMV-enabled microprocessor which aims to replace the magnetic stripe technology. The chips allow for both contact and contactless devices, which is being touted as a much more secure way to complete transactions.

The EMV chip cards are widely used already in Europe, the New York Times reports, and Visa has recently announced its efforts to bring the technology to the USA. The process has lagged here as retailers have balked at having to upgrade their point-of-sale technology, and credit card issuers have waited until retailers were on board, resulting in a bit of a stalemate, according to InformationWeek. Now, Visa and McDonalds, which has installed the devices in restaurants, are leading the charge to get EMV chip cards into the mainstream. Visa is offering retailers financial incentives to adopt the EMV technology and its point-of-sale devices, but the full adoption is likely to take five to six years.

Citi's announcement is the latest this year, following Chase, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank among others, in supplying its more affluent customers who frequently travel abroad with EMV cards. Foreign travelers have complained the magnetic stripe cards are increasingly incompatible with vending machines and self-serve kiosks at train stations, for example. The EMV technology is considered a precursor to mobile payments through such devices as cell phones.

Correction (August 30, 2011): This article previously implied that Visa was promoting the use of PIN transactions. In fact, Visa is simply promoting EMV chip transactions, whether the merchant requires a signature or a PIN.

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