Chip credit cards are getting closer to the mainstream here in the U.S.
On Monday, Bank of America said it will add EMV chip technology to many of its consumer credit cards. In November, the company said it will issue chip credit cards to its corporate and commercial customers. EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the developers of the technology standard.
Newly issued Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust Accolades, BankAmericard Travel Rewards, BankAmericard Privileges and Virgin Atlantic credit cards will automatically be chip cards. Customers who have these cards already will get an upgraded card.
Additionally, customers can ask for a chip card for the following credit cards: BankAmericard Cash Rewards, BankAmericard Power Rewards, BankAmericard, AAA Member Rewards, NEA, Asiana Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Customers just need to call the bank or walk into a branch to request a chip card, at no charge.
Bank of America's cards won't require a personal identification number, as some chip cards do. Rather, cardholders will sign for transactions as they normally do. The cards also have a magnetic strip to make traditional purchases stateside.
BofA said it unrolled these chip cards to "improve convenience and security" for its customers. EMV chip cards have an embedded microchip that encrypts transaction and card data uniquely each time the card is used. That makes it harder for criminals to clone the card.
These cards also are widely used in Europe and Canada, and are fast becoming the standard in Asia, Africa and in some places in Latin and South America. Some American travelers have run into problems using their traditional mag-strip cards at unmanned gas stations, train kiosks, tolls and at rural merchants overseas.
BofA's new cards represent part of the slow evolution to chip cards in the U.S. While the technology has been around for more than a decade, U.S. issuers and merchants have been reluctant to issue or accept these cards, mostly due to costs.
Some issuers started introducing chip cards for their business travelers or affluent globetrotters last year. And Visa last summer announced some carrot-and-stick initiatives to get merchants to accept these cards over the next several years. MasterCard followed with similar efforts in January, and both Discover and American Express came on board quickly thereafter.
Folks, it seems like you'll have a chip card in your wallet in the near future, maybe before year-end. It will be more interesting to see when you can finally use the technology on U.S. soil.
What are your predictions about chip credit cards (and debit cards, for that matter)?
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