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Chip-and-signature Cards Are Not The Same As Chip-and-pin Cards

Those are two good points: not having to remember a PIN and having a chip that's resistant to counterfeiting are both significant benefits, and the second is one that should soon be enjoyed here in America. EMV is due to be rolled out nationwide over the next two or three years. However, PINs do have other security advantages, as the Payments Council in the U.K. reports on its website.

It suggests that signatures -- which can be forged, and which are frequently not checked at all -- make it easier for a stolen card to be used fraudulently. Meanwhile, a chip-and-PIN card, absent its four-digit number, is useless to a thief. The Payments Council talks about signature authorizations giving "fraudsters a window of opportunity between the time they steal a card and the time the owner reports it lost or stolen."

Credit card companies have a choice

And yet there seems to be a real possibility of most American credit card companies opting for chip-with-signature for their plastic when EMV finally becomes ubiquitous in the United States. According to Visa, that's not a decision that's being foisted on them by the payment networks; it's one they're free to make for themselves.

Why would they choose the less secure alternative? But, in a way, you may not care. After all, it's the card issuers themselves who carry the cost of most fraud, although they may be able to shave a little off annual fees and credit card rates if that burden is reduced.

However, it's a question that needs answering, so it's one this corner of cyberspace plans to return to soon.

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