Banks fighting to corner market for EMV chip credit cards

Smart card

Two major national banks, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo, are rolling out EMV chip equipped smart cards for high end credit card customers. The chip is in the upper left of the picture. Photo Credit: Channel R/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

The nation’s largest banks are starting to compete for customers that want EMV chip-equipped credit cards. EMV chips are actually a very small integrated circuit built into a credit card, and the technology was developed by a joint venture between Europay, Mastercard and Visa. The chips provide greater security than magnetic stripe cards that are more typical in America.

International jet set wants greater utility from credit cards

A common complaint among jet set types traveling overseas and using their credit cards is that European merchants often have problems processing American credit cards that have antiquated magnetic stripes instead of EMV chip cards more common overseas, according to Bloomberg. So, in order to capitalize on the need among wealthier credit card users, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase are bringing EMV chips to their high-end lines of credit cards. Wells Fargo is launching a pilot program, where about 15,000 customers will be invited to use the Wells Fargo EMV chip card sometime this summer. JPMorgan Chase is diving straight into the deep end, and will be issuing EMV cards to customers enrolled in its Palladium program for high net worth clients.

Americans have to be unique

The need to have an EMV card, also commonly called a smart card, for travelers is not a joking matter. An increasingly fewer number of merchants in Europe can still accept magnetic strip cards, and that technology gap accounted for $4 billion in losses to merchants and $447 million in lost revenue for card providers in 2008. Smart cards, according to Wikipedia, differ from magnetic stripes as smart cards use a technology called “Chip and PIN.” Chip and PIN cards use a small computer chip and integrated circuit board, about 3 by 5 millimeters in total, that stores the information of the user. Merchants carry a smart card reader, where the card is inserted and read, rather than swiped. The user simply gives their Personal Identification Number, and the sale is made. The benefit is that smart cards are less easily corrupted by thieves.

Card companies already have them

EMV chips are only one particular kind of smart card chips, developed in a joint venture between European credit card company Eurocard, MasterCard and Visa, hence “EMV.” American Express also has EMV chip equipped cards in its Express Pay line. However, the smartcard reader technology is not as widespread in America as in Europe, as the U.S. is slow to adopt technologies from other countries at times. JPMorgan intends to distribute EMV chip cards to the rest of its customers after implementing them in its credit cards for high end customers first.




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