How EMV Works – How Users Can Make It Work Better

In 2015, America underwent a monumental shift — and it occurred almost entirely in Americans’ wallets.

More and more frequently, Americans are using payment cards, like credit and debit cards, to complete transactions, but American cards have long been reliant on outdated and insecure technology. Meanwhile, European nations have long relied on microchips embedded in their payment cards, which keep personal data safe and make fraud more difficult to perpetrate. A few years ago, the United States finally adopted the chip technology, called EMV for Europay, Mastercard and Visa who created the standard. Yet, the shift was so sudden and drastic that few Americans truly understand what took place.

This guide will help the average American understand why we switched to EMV cards, how EMV tech works and what everyone can do to maintain security of payment information.

The Benefits of EMV

EMV cards are far and away better than magstripe-only cards for the following reasons:

EMV is more secure. Magstripe cards store information in a magnetic strip that is easy to read and reproduce. EMV cards contain a microchip that encrypts payment data, which makes it more difficult for criminals to swipe information from and to duplicate.

EMV is global. Now that the U.S. has adopted chips, the rest of the world will follow suit. Thus, EMV cards will soon be accepted forms of payment no matter where consumers travel whereas magstripes were once rejected in many European destinations due to their insecurity.

EMV operates offline. Because EMV chips are tiny microprocessors, they can verify payments without the need to connect to payment institutions. This allows merchants to continue making transactions even when their connections go down.

EMV is future-proof. All EMV payments cards support contactless and mobile transaction types. Admittedly, this isn’t limited to EMV cards, but it is an important feature of payments in an era of swiftly advancing tech.

These benefits positively affect both businesses and consumers. Neither group wants data to be stolen; neither group wants delays is transaction processing; and neither wants to replace their cards in a matter of years. Thus, EMV is an elegant solution to age-old problems with payment cards.

All About EMV Tech

The transition to EMV is much more drastic for business owners than it is for consumers. First, organizations need to acquire EMV terminals, which are capable of reading the microchips embedded in the cards. Most terminals are also capable of retrieving payment information in other ways, including swiping the magstripe and transmitting information without contact. However, for the security forward business, installing EMV-ready hardware and software is only the first step in protecting consumer data.

Businesses should also consider how they accept and store data and how their service providers accept and store data. Separate from the EMV mandate, merchants must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which outlines how businesses must protect payment information from attack and theft. Organizations that are not appropriately compliant are subject to fines — not to mention an increased risk of data breach.

Meanwhile, in 2015 and 2016, consumers around the country received through the mail replacement payment cards that contained EMV chips. Consumers hardly need to handle their EMV cards any differently than they did their old cards. The primary difference is instead of swiping for every transaction, they will largely need to dip their chip into EMV terminals. Consumers who have not yet received an EMV card can petition their financial institutions to switch to the new standard — or change financial institutions to gain greatly enhanced payment security.

Still, consumers can me more conscious of how they use their payment cards to help reduce the risk of insecurity and identity theft. For one, consumers can choose to dip their chips exclusively; any merchant that only has magstripe POS terminals should be paid using another method besides card. Additionally, consumers can be careful regarding how they use their payment cards on the internet because EMV does not extend its protections online.

Though EMV has been a difficult transition for many Americans — especially stubborn business owners — it has been a beneficial one. Equipped with EMV, merchants and consumers can make more secure purchases in more places around the world, which should lead to a decrease in payment fraud, data theft and other harmful cybercrimes.

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