The recent hacking of Target resulting in the theft of credit and debit card information on more than 40 million Target customers brought attention to the technology used in American credit cards. Unlike credit cards in other parts of the world, American credit cards still use a magnetic strip technology that has been around since the 1960s in which information is contained on a magnetic strip on the back of the card. When the information on this strip is stolen, the identity thief has access to the credit of the victim. However in more than 80 other countries around the world, the magnetic strip card technology has been replaced with cards embedded with a microchip. This technology is often referred to as EMV. With EMV cards, the chip creates and encrypts a new number every time the card is used. Thus hacking into the data terminals used by the cardholder is a worthless exercise in trying to access the credit card. Credit card companies and retailers have resisted for cost reasons updating the credit card system in the United States although changes in regulations in regard to liability for fraudulent credit card use will prompt credit card companies and retailers to switch to this technology by October of 2015. Hopefully, consumers will also insist on the new EMV cards as a way to shop more safely.
Some American companies including Chase, Citi, American Express and Discover are issuing the new EMV cards, but you have to ask for them. Unfortunately, you can expect the rollout of the new cards to be rather slow and consequently you can also expect more major hacking events similar to what happened at Target between now and October of 2015 so you may wish to consider asking for one of the new EMV cards when you get a new credit card.