Today, there are more advanced credit card securities technologies available than what most cards issued in the U.S. currently come with. However, that could all change soon, and smaller financial institutions are leading the revolution.
While a few major lenders are now beginning to slowly roll out credit cards that come equipped not only with the familiar magnetic strip technology prevalent on such cards for years, but a newer microchip-based system as well. Movement in this area has been somewhat slow, according to a report from the Credit Union Times. Mostly, these cards with what is known alternately as chip-and-PIN or EMV technology, are being granted mainly to more affluent customers who tend to travel abroad often.
But now, many smaller banks and credit unions are getting geared up for a more widespread rollout of EMV technology by giving them to nearly all their customers, the report said. While many are granting them not only to credit card customers, but those who carry debit as well, some are even applying them for prepaid cards.
The first institution to issue them en masse
United Nations Federal Credit Union was the first business of its kind to begin a significant distribution of cards with EMV technology embedded in them, the report said. The credit union, which has 100,000 members and $3.7 billion in assets, may be a good target for this kind of effort because it is likely to have many customers who travel abroad often.
Indeed, as with larger banks, those well-traveled customers were the focus of the first wave of issuing, totaling 8,000 of the bank's roughly 40,000 credit cardholders in all, the report said. That effort will continue for the remainder of its cardholder base over the next 18 months.
"We considered that these were the members who were most likely to need the cards and most likely to use them in overseas travel," Merrill Halpern, assistant vice president for card services at UNFCU, told the site. "Our member reactions have been overwhelmingly in gratitude."
Merrill also noted that the credit union's efforts to broaden issuing were coming, but that doing so came at greater expense to itself, the report said. Currently, EMV cards cost the company between 25 and 40 percent more to provide than magnetic strip cards, but have proven so popular that many of its customers now say they're willing to pay a fee to obtain one of their own.
Bigger credit unions getting involved as well
The success of this type of card program at UNFCU is also now nearly complete for larger counterparts, who made similar efforts, the report said. The State Employees' Credit Union in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently finished issuing 1.1 million debit cards with EMV technology to its customers, making it one of the largest chip-and-PIN debit issuers in the nation.
For SECU, which has a considerably larger customer base, it was also able to negotiate a better price for its EMV card rollout, paying only 70 cents more than it costs to make a magnetic strip card, the report said. Likewise, customers have found these cards useful, and there has been an uptick in use not only overseas, where EMV technology is widely utilized, but also in North Carolina.
Currently, while there is growing evidence that consumers are happy with EMV technology and perhaps willing to adopt it on a more widespread basis, the number of people who have these kinds of cards is still extremely small when compared to the rest of the nation. As such, there is still a lack of surety in how credit card issuers, both large and small, will continue to utilize this type of technology in the future.
Chip-and-PIN systems are used almost exclusively overseas, so these cards will be helpful to foreign travelers, but experts have expressed doubts that it would catch on in the U.S. This is especially true as newer technologies emerge that may be safer still than the advanced security EMV offers. For instance, mobile wallet platforms are just beginning to emerge, and could be safer when compared to either EMV or magnetic strip technology.
However, if you are interested in protecting your various financial accounts, you shouldn't stop at making efforts to increase your cards' security. You should also take the time to order copies of your credit report regularly to make sure there are no unfair markings on your file. These could have profound negative impacts on your credit standing, but working with a credit repair law firm could help to clear up these problems and put your finances back to where they deserve to be.