Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Chip & Pin - When will we see this in the US?

I've just read an article by the BBC that states the amount of credit card fraud has dropped to the lowest levels in ten years, at just 187m over the first six months of the year. That's an incredible achievement I believe, considering that the past eleven years has cost the banking industry over four and a half billion pounds sterling.

While I was living in the UK, the banking industry introduced chip and pin, a credit card containing not only a magnetic swipe strip, but also a smart card chip similar to the ones seen on cellphone sim cards. It was clearly recognized at the time that magnetic strips could easily be copied when a customer wasn't looking by swiping their card in a reader, then swiping the card to do the actual charge on a PDQ. The person who copied the information later transfers that digital data to another credit card, presumably in their name which then makes an exact replica of the original credit card, minus names, to minimize required explanation when the credit card does not match the persons real name.

The original magnetic readers were obsoleted throughout the entire commercial industry, and restaurants, bars, cafes, shopping centers, corner stores, etc replaced the magnetic reader for a reader that read from the chip. That coupled with the physical input of the card holders pin number, facilitated through the use of easy to carry portable readers with key code entry pads, or shielded keypads at the register. Goodbye skimmers, goodbye having to have a working pen to scrawl ones autograph, goodbye nightmare, and it certainly seems that way.

I've lived in the States for the past three years now, and have yet to see ANYONE with a chip & pin card. If the UK suffered four point seven billion pounds in credit card fraud over eleven years, I would hate to imagine what the States has suffered, especially with a population that dwarfs the entire UK's population by 251 million people.

Since Chip & Pin appears to be so successful, isn't it about time that the US banks protect our hard earned cash, reduce the countries credit card fraud rate, and provide us with some cool looking credit cards that will be the talk of the country for several months? I don't like carrying cash around, but I'm also very wary when I had my card over to be swiped each and every time. I watch the person carrying my card like a hawk and if they go to the back to swipe my card, I pay extra special attention to their actions to ensure they aren't skimming my card. Should I, or anyone else have to feel this way?

Sure, the implementation of such a system would cost alot of money. Every card holder would need to be issued new cards, and all the PDQ machines would have to be replaced to support a card insertion slot which then enables the device to read from the chip rather than the magnetic strip, ATM machines would need to be upgraded, we as card holders would have to (dare I say it) remember that pin number and keep it handy--I can see how this could potentially cost millions if not a few billion dollars. Would the savings be worth it in the long run though? I believe the benefits outweigh the cons a million to one.

This needs to start at the congress level, if not the President himself. Reduce the fraud, and then the fees can be reduced. That's where it costs the most is the fees that banks charge for the privilege of having a card because of the scammers out there that skim cards and steal money, and it has to be paid somehow; I don't want to have to foot the bill, no matter how tiny my payments are in comparison to others and I think many other people would be in agreement.


Mike Madsen said...

I had suffered with the traditional overdue and overlimit fees myself. All as a result of myown doing. I have since paid off those cards and have been living credit card free for years.

How families across America manage the cost of having a card while dealing with the jobless market is beyond me. This computer wouldnt be on had I not eliminated the debt when I did.

As for the upgrade to the system, the cost for the consumer and the lenders would be minuscule compared to the tremendous benefit to both the American family and the credit card companies. But expecting anyone to enact such change without a legislative mandate would be foolish.

However, the thought that members of Congress would act in our benefit against the wishes of the lobbyists and having suffered the negative press for the valiant attempt to cure our Health-care woes, is a wasted thought.

Your best bet for the short term is to pay off and lose the cards ASAP.
Now where is that fuel bill??

Ingwa said...

Hi Mike, thanks for the comment. Thankfully I only have one credit card and it's not a burden, however the thought that any of my cards (credit or debit) can be skimmed for the purposes of defrauding my account is just frightening.

The UK had a tough time with legislature too, and up until 2009, the banks legal liability was limited to 50 pounds, and that was only covered by a voluntary Banking Code. Ultimately the onus of paying a fraudulent claim was upon the card holder unless they could prove they didn't make the purchase.

As Chip & Pin hasn't yet been introduced in the States, I'm assuming although I could be wrong, that the legal liability is somewhat limited here too.

The great thing about chip and pin is you can't copy the chip, or so they say. I'm sure in some extreme cases it can be done, however I would think that the measures to counteract that would be easier to implement against a chip (which is actually a mini-computer onboard the card, programmed to perform very specific functions) as apposed to some magnetic information on a strip.

kathryn said...

I'm fine with a changeover to this "Chip and Pin" you speak of. Sometimes, the US is so incredibly slow with things....

And I know what you mean about watching the cashier like a hawk...I just went through that this evening. Makes me crazy...I feel like the thieves are much more sophisticated than I...(which I'm sure they are).

Great post!

Ingwa said...

Kathryn, many thanks for your comment. Skimming really isn't that difficult. I actually saw some card readers at Target. It's little simple things like that that can cause such damage to us, and if not from Target, you can find them on the internet very easily. Simple but scary.