Photo Credit Aranami via Flickr

My name is Hannah and I am the intern here at the Social Television Network. Do you remember when checking out at a grocery store was easy? You would just swipe your credit card and go. Now it seems like things have gotten so complicated, but why? Well most people claim it’s all because of the chip-and-PIN that is now embedded into all of our credit cards. While some say these chips are supposed to be making our lives easier, it seems like it has been doing the exact opposite.

A lot of people I know are always complaining about the chip-and-PIN cards. It seems like these cards just cause stress and aggravation. But I wanted to know what does the chip-and-PIN actually do? How does it help keep our money safer? I remember being told that the point of the chip is to help protect credit card holders, but I didn’t know how it worked. So, being the savvy college student that I am, I took it upon myself to do some research.

I found out the chip-and-PIN card, also known as EMV card (Eruopay, MasterCard, and Visa) uses what is called “smart card” technology to make it harder for thieves to clone cards and steal data. This is done through the chip. The chip ensures that sensitive credit card information, such as account numbers, are transferred to the merchant differently with each transaction. This makes it virtually impossible to steal credit information. That’s basically the gist of the chip-and-PIN.

While I know a lot of people dislike it, I really do like the chip-and-PIN. It could be in part because my first experience with the chip-and-PIN was actually pretty positive. The concept was first introduced to me when I was over in the UK. Everyone in the UK has a chip in their credit cards and it seems to make life so much easier. Not once did I have my card taken out of my hand. When I went out for a meal, the server would bring a portable credit card machine over to the table when we were ready to pay. My credit card was always in my hand and visible. During my five months abroad, I experienced no credit card theft.

Photo Credit Pure Metal Cards via Flickr
Photo Credit Pure Metal Cards via Flickr

So when I got back to the states, I was so excited when a new credit card showed up in the mail for me with a chip in it! I thought it would be great! But in all honesty, I will admit that the chip-and-PIN has caused me some problems. Shopping is not something I enjoy doing. So I normally just want to get in, gather everything that I need and get out as quickly as possible. But when I check out, how do I pay? Do I swipe my credit card? Or do I insert* it into the card reader? Honestly, I never know. It seems like each store has a different policy about payment. I am sure everyone has had some type of mishap trying to pay with the new chip-and-PIN credit cards.

My chip-and-PIN mishap happened while I was at my local Target. I was at the front of a long check out line. I saw that there was a chip-and-PIN reader when I went to pay, so I confidently inserted my card, like a pro. As it turns out, the chip-and-PIN system was not set up yet and my transaction was somehow canceled. The cashier had to re-ring me up and it caused a major delay with a long line behind me. I felt so bad, I held up the entire check out line! It was an extremely stressful situation with everyone staring at me with annoyed faces….all because of the chip-and-PIN.

Personally, I think the chip-and-PIN transaction will eventually become smoother and less stressful, but it will take time. Yes, the chip-and-PIN system here is not perfect. It can be stressful. But the chip is helping us get one step closer to protecting sensitive banking information. Again, it will take time, but I do think the payment process will eventually get easier… in time… eventually. Until then, if you have an entertaining chip-and-PIN payment mishap you would like to share, please comment below. We’d love to hear it!

*Fun fact: when you pay with chip-and-PIN and insert your card into the card reader, it’s called dipping.

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