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Credit cards change forever starting today – here’s what you need to know

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:06PM EST
Credit Cards EMV Rollout October 1st

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Whether you know it or not, today marks the start of an important new era for credit cards, which are beginning an official transition to EMV technology this month. For those of you who haven’t heard, newly issued cards will now use microchips installed on the front of cards to register payments with stores instead of the traditional magnetic strips. This change will make credit cards more secure overall but it won’t happen all at once. Below we’ll go over what this means for credit card users.

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First: Don’t worry, your old magnetic strip credit card will still work. If you don’t have an EMV-equipped credit card yet, don’t panic. Stores will still accept old credit cards for the foreseeable future. Also, the new EMV cards will still have magnetic strips on the back so you can still pay with them in stores that haven’t upgraded to new equipment yet.

Using EMV-equipped cards won’t be all that different from how we use traditional cards. You won’t be sliding your card so much as dipping it into a slot, similar to how you slot cards inside many ATMs right now. The big difference is that you’ll have to leave the card in place for several seconds so that the EMV chip can communicate with the network. This could make using the new cards more cumbersome.

It’s easy to tell if you have an EMV-equipped card. Here’s what EMV chips look like embedded on cards. They’re hard to miss:

Your bank is responsible for issuing your new card.

And this will be a staggered rollout, so don’t panic if you don’t receive an EMV-equipped credit card this month. In fact, Javelin Strategy and Research estimates that just 36% of American credit cards in use will have EMV chips by the end of the year.

EMV chips won’t protect you from online fraud. Their whole purpose is to make it impossible for crooks to counterfeit your physical credit card, but they can’t stop credit card fraud for online credit card purchases.

Retailers aren’t very happy about all this. If retailers haven’t installed new card readers by now, they’ll be held liable for fraud committed by credit cards with counterfeited magnetic strips.

Now is a good time to start learning about Apple Pay, Google Pay or other mobile payment platforms. While the new credit cards will make paying with credit cards more secure, they’re also likely to make things less convenient. Many people will be confused about the new process, which will result in longer, slower moving lines at stores. Even if mobile payments haven’t exactly set the world on fire yet, the inconvenience caused by these cards might just be enough to do the trick.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.