In recent months, a number of the nation's top credit card lenders have begun issuing credit cards to some borrowers that come with new technology, but experts say a wider roll-out would reduce fraud across the country.
Most major countries across the globe have been using a type of credit card that has yet to gain much of a foothold in the U.S., but it's believed that if there was a massive switch to the newer technology, instances of credit card fraud would fall appreciably, according to a report from McClatchy Newspapers. This technology, known as either "chip and PIN" or EMV (after Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the companies that pioneered it), uses a microchip to store payment data inside a card rather than on a magnetic strip on the back of it.
Data from analysis firm the Nilson Report showed that last year, the U.S. accounted for about 27 percent of all global purchases using either debit or credit cards, but at the same time suffered 47 percent of all payment card fraud, the report said. Further data suggests that credit card fraud cost companies $3.56 billion in 2010.
But if lenders across the country began issuing the new kind of chip and PIN credit cards, which have been ubiquitous in Europe, Asia and even Canada for years, it's believed those totals would fall appreciably, the report said. Many Canadian merchants, for example, still accept Americans' magnetic strip cards, but do so grudgingly because of the higher fraud risk involved, and that issue is so problematic for some businesses that they simply ask magnetic-strip cardholders to pay with cash.
The EMV system has been mandated in Canada for the last two years, and has existed in Europe for more than a decade, the report said. In fact, many automated kiosks across Europe may frustrate American travelers because they are simply no longer equipped to accept magnetic strip cards.
So why hasn't the U.S. switched over?
Originally, U.S. card issuers likely didn't feel the need to switch over to the new technology when other countries were because of both the massive number of cards held nationwide – which would have been slowly pulled out of circulation as they expired – and the high cost of creating these newer cards, the report said. These cards once cost between $3 and $5 each to manufacture, but now cost as little as less than a dollar.
That cost may have been too high for lenders or payment processors to want to take on, and instead decided to start passing the cost of fraud remediation elsewhere, the report said.
"What we've had for a number of years is a flawed card system in this country, and as a consequence of this consumers and merchants are frankly less secure in using cards here than they are in other parts of the world," Mallory Duncan, a senior vice president for the National Retail Federation in Washington, told the news agency. "Banks found ways to pass on fraud costs to merchants. … As long as you can cause somebody else to pay for the fraud losses, there is less incentive for finding alternatives."
This also creates a problem for foreign travelers visiting the U.S., because their cards are more advanced than most merchants across the country are equipped to handle, the report said. But soon, that will likely change. Visa is now pushing merchants to adopt new point of sale machines capable of accepting chip and PIN cards, and already has more than a million such cards in circulation in the U.S.
Typically, these have been reserved primarily for more affluent customers who travel abroad regularly, or for business clients, but that could change in the next few years, the report said. Visa is mandating that merchants have until October 1, 2015 to switch to the new readers, at which point they will be liable for all fraud.
Credit card fraud can have a huge negative effect on your credit score because it can lead you closer to your overall credit limits and push your monthly payments to amounts so large that you cannot afford to make them on time. For this reason, you should keep a close eye on your monthly statements for any transactions you don't recognize.
However, when trying to raise your credit score, you should also take the time to check your credit report regularly. This will help you to identify any unfair markings that may be having an adverse effect on your credit standing. Working with a credit repair law firm can help you to clear up these problematic entries and get you back on the path to top-notch credit.