A type of technology that makes credit card numbers much more difficult for thieves to get their hands on, which is currently in use in Europe and parts of Latin America, could soon be coming to the United States. Known as smart, PIN, or EMV cards, these credit cards replace the magnetic strip ubiquitous in American credit cards with a small chip on the front of the card. This chip holds the credit card’s number and is scanned by merchants to collect payment, but is much more challenging for crooks to steal.
According to Northwest Public Radio, this type of credit card hasn’t been readily adopted in the U.S. because retailers would have to update the electronic systems that collect payment information, which is costly. However, because the Target data breach likely occurred at the swipe machines featured in most American shops, some experts predict that credit card companies will begin pressuring merchants to upgrade to more fraud-proof systems. In fact, this is why American credit cards aren’t able to be used in some parts of Europe– they’re viewed as too risky by European retailers.
Some large corporations in the U.S., like Home Depot and Best Buy, are already capable of accepting smart credit cards, and about 15 million such cards have already been issued by U.S. banks. While this accounts for a very small percentage of the credit cards in circulation, it represents a vote of confidence that the technology will catch on n the future.