Chase officially has announced plans to reissue all its debit cards to include embedded microchips aimed at helping to reduce fraud.
The Chicago Tribune first reported the move last month.
Such technology is prevalent in many other countries and is expected to become the standard for payments in the U.S. The reason for the change: Cards in the U.S., which rely on magnetic strips that store personal information, can be more easily counterfeited or copied.
A chip transaction adds another layer of security because each time the card is used it produces a single-use code validating the transaction, making account information more difficult to steal.
Chip cards have significantly cut into fraud globally. For example, in the United Kingdom, card fraud in stores dropped 75 percent from 2004 — when a large-scale rollout began — to 2012, said Zilvinas Bareisis, a senior analyst for Celent, a consulting firm to the financial services industry.
Here’s how it works: Instead of swiping the card, shoppers insert it into a slot and leave it there until the purchase is completed with a signed signature or by punching in a personal identification number. The PIN is considered a better verification method than a signature, said Bareisis.
Most chip cards in Europe also still have magnetic strips so they can still be used at terminals that accept only those types of cards.
That also will be the case with the reissued Chase cards because it will take a while for U.S. retailers to add chip readers. Major retailers are expected to move more quickly to the new technology than smaller stores.
A December 2014 report by the Payments Security Task Force, whose members include Visa, Bank of America and Discover, estimates that 47 percent of U.S. terminals will accept chip cards by the end of 2015.
“The size of the U.S. market, however, suggests that at least three to five years will be needed to reach full maturity of chip-card acceptance,” the report said.
If the chip card is used in a chip terminal, the fact that it also has a magnetic strip is irrelevant, said Bareisis. “It’s not used in the transaction, so therefore the card is not vulnerable,” he said.
If the card is used in a regular magnetic-strip reader, then it will be more vulnerable, he said.
Chase said its rollout in Chicago will be followed nationally.
Other banks are slowly introducing chip cards. BMO Harris Bank said it recently began issuing chip debit cards. Any new or replacement debit cards include chips, spokesman Patrick O’Herlihy said.
Bank of America started adding the chips to its credit cards in 2012 and to consumer and small-business debit cards in October. The chip cards are included on new accounts and to accounts when cards need to be replaced.
Brent Tischler, director of payments and direct channels at Associated Bank, said the institution plans a rollout of chip debit cards this summer. Associated Bank initially will issue chip cards to replace expired cards and lost or stolen cards.
“While we’re not planning to complete a full customer mass reissue of our debit cards before the end of 2015, we do have flexibility to accelerate our phased rollout if necessary,” Tischler said.
Chase spokeswoman Christine Holevas said “several” of its credit cards have been reissued with the chips and that the rollout will continue throughout the year. Credit card customers will be sent a new card, or they may request one sooner, Holevas said.
The more secure cards are more costly for banks.
Cards with magnetic strips cost 25 cents to 65 cents, with an additional 25 cents to 45 cents to personalize them, Bareisis said.