Chip-and-Pin and Chip-and-Signature Credit Card Primer for 2013

By Paul Riegler on 25 July 2013
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New secure EMV chip cards available today.  Here’s what you need to know.

Amex Platinum card with EMV

Amex Platinum card with EMV

One year after we took an in-depth look at EMV cards, a more secure credit card that can combat credit card fraud, major charge and credit card issuers in the U.S. are starting to roll them out.

EMV cards, also known as smart cards, have an embedded microprocessor that contains the information the card needs to use to complete a transaction as well as manage various security tasks.  Simply put, the chip stores and safely processes data while at the same time makes the card much more difficult to counterfeit.  While they are already the standard across the globe, issuers in the United States have been slow to offer them.

EMV cards come in two flavors, chip-and-PIN and chip-and-signature.  With the former, the card holder enters a PIN into the credit card terminal after inserting the card and a signature is typically not required.  With the latter, there is no PIN and the card holder signs the credit card slip just as it’s done today with magnetic-stripe cards.  Charge and credit card issuers in the U.S. have been leaning towards chip-and-signature cards despite the fact that only a chip-and-PIN card will give the user access to unmanned filling stations, toll booths, and bus and metro ticket kiosks.

Here’s a look at what is currently available:


American Express currently offers one EMV card and that’s for the American Express Platinum card.  Although American Express sends out standard cards to new card members, both current and new Platinum cardholders can request an EMV version and American Express will overnight the new card upon request.

While the $450 fee for this card may seem expensive, the benefits may make it a worthwhile investment.  They include $200 in airline “nuisance” fee refunds such as baggage fees, in-flight entertainment, in-flight food, fees for flight changes, etc., airport lounge access including the Delta Sky Club and American Airlines Admirals Club along with many others, free upgrades, late check-outs, and other benefits through the company’s Fine Hotels & Resorts programs at over 700 properties around the world.  In addition, the card comes with American Express’ Membership Rewards loyalty program which captured the Frequent Business Traveler GlobeRunner Award for Best Credit/Charge Card Points Program two years in a row.


Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit first rolled out EMV functionality on its corporate Merrill Lynch cards last year. Today, it’s also available for consumer Merrill Lynch cards.  It’s also standard on U.S. Trust Accolades, BankAmericard Travel Rewards, BankAmericard Privileges, and Virgin Atlantic credit cards, and optional on BankAmericard Cash Rewards, BankAmericard Power Rewards, BankAmericard, AAA Members Rewards, NEA, Asiana Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines.


Citibank offers multiple cards with chip-and-signature technology, including the following: Citibank Thank You Preferred, Citibank Thank You, Citi Gold/AAdvantage Visa Signature.


Several credit unions offer  credit cards with EMV technology.  The list includes Pentagon Federal, State Department Federal, Andrews Federal, and the United Nations Federal Credit Union, the latter being the first U.S.-based bank to have issued an EMV card, which it did in 2010.

Click here to continue to Page 2Diners Club, JP Morgan Chase, and U.S. Bank

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