Should I swipe my card or insert the chip when paying? What’s the difference?

Posted by Members Choice Credit Union on April 9, 2020

Cyber Security

How many times have you found yourself at the check-out counter wanting to pay for your purchases with your debit card and not being sure if the system wants you to swipe your card or insert your chip? Knowing the differences between the two can help make your purchasing process easier.

First and foremost, the goal of the chip is to keep your card safe. Although there is no such thing as a 100% secure technology, the chip is a significant upgrade from the traditional magnetic stripe on your card. Plus, most merchants offer chip card readers now. That is why we recommend opting to use the chip feature on your card.

What are the main differences between the Magnetic Stripe and the EMV Chip on your card?

The main difference between the two is the level of security each provides. Magnetic stripes have your card information exposed to any card reader — they are more susceptible to fraud due to the ease of intercepting and replicating your information for future fraudulent transactions. EMV chip technology has been proven to reduce fraud by keeping your information safer with a more complex encryption to store your card information.  

For members, the biggest difference when making purchases using the chip feature versus the magnetic stripe on your card is in how they are used. With a chip card you insert your card into the card reader and leave it inserted while the transaction is completed. With the magnetic stripe on your card you do a one-time swipe and follow the instructions on the card reader.

It may be habit to swipe your card and if you do, you might get an error message if using a chip card. If so, then try inserting the chip in and waiting for the transaction to be authorized and processed – you may be prompted to enter your pin or signature in order to complete the transaction.

What is the recommended way to pay?

It’s recommended that you use the chip card reader. By default, most merchants are transitioning or have already transitioned to a chip card reader. The added security that the EMV chip provides to help prevent fraud is far superior than simply using the magnetic strip on your card and it is less likely to lead to fraudulent activities on your account.

While it may feel like paying with the EMV chip feature on your card takes a longer time to process the transaction, by using the chip you reduce the risk of being vulnerable to falling victim to card skimmers. Card skimmers are devices that are illegally connected to common card readers in your everyday gas stations, grocery stores, ATMs and merchants that are used to steal and copy your card information. Due to the encryption on the EMV, it is much harder for identity thefts to duplicate your card information when you pay with your chip feature.

What to do if I suspect my card has been affected by fraud?

Combatting card fraud is the reason that card networks initiated the shift to EMV chip technology and Visa reports that counterfeit card fraud has decreased 76 percent for merchants who have made the switch to chip card technology. However, it is not completely fraud proof, so if you suspect that your Members Choice Debit Card has been compromised or if you see suspicious activity on your account, immediately report it to Visa at 1.877.703.5024 or visit mccu.com/access/card-disputes-and-fraud for more information.