A few months ago my bank sent me a letter letting me know I’d be issued a new debit card in September.
As I recall, the notice included a lot of information about the switch to MasterCard and instructions for activating the new card and destroying the old one. Buried at the end was a key piece of information – the new card would be enabled with a kind of technology called “chip-and-PIN.” That was about it; no real explanation of what chip-and-PIN is, how it works or why the bank was making the change.
Fortunately I run the editorial department of The Warren Group and am very familiar, from an industry perspective, with the history of chip-and-PIN. I’m well aware of what the technology is, how it works and why it’s safer. (Though some debate the safety claim.)
I found it odd, as a consumer, that my bank made little fuss about this new technology and give almost no indication about it – including how to actually use it. I wonder if this is because many retailers in the U.S. have not made the switch (despite the October deadline) and therefore you can’t actually use the card as intended? But certainly some retailers are rolling out the machines.
As predicted, my new card arrived (about two days before the October implementation deadline). The first place I noticed a machine capable of accepting a chip card instead of using a magnetic strip scanner was at the Fort Point branch of the United States Postal Service. And I was STOKED to try out my new card! Until the nice postal worker informed me that it didn’t actually work.
Since then I’ve spotted the machines at Stop ’n’ Shop and, oddly enough, a small convenience store in a service plaza in New York. Both times I’ve forgotten to actually use the chip part instead of the mag strip swipe. Haven’t been to Target lately to test the machines the big-box retailer spent an estimated $100 million to install, along with issuing chip-and-PIN cards of its own.
Banks continue to issue chip-and-PIN cards – I have not, as yet, received the new version of my credit card – and retailers continue to roll out card readers, albeit at a slower rate. I’d be interested to hear from others about how their banks handled the education on the issue.
I’m very interested to see how the rollout goes into next year. It may have been a hundred million dollars wasted, or it may help save hundreds of millions of dollars by protecting customer information from hackers. Time will tell.