This week Chase and Wells Fargo, two of the largest banks in the United States, announced that they would issue new credit cards with embedded microchips to some of their globetrotting customers.
In recent years, this "EMV" chip technology has become the global standard for credit cards, but the United States has been slow to adopt it. While most people carry cards with embedded microchips and magnetic stripes, most Americans carry cards with magnetic stripes only. And in some countries outside the United States, the machines that read cards at the point of sale can only process cards with chips.
Problems arise when there's not a human around to intervene, such as at unmanned tollbooths, train station ticket kiosks or self-serve gasoline pumps. According to the Aite Group, nearly 10 million US cardholders experienced acceptance issues with credit cards when travelling abroad in 2008.
As a result, banks like Chase and Wells Fargo are responding, hoping to address the complaints of frequent travellers – some of their best customers – who have had problems using their cards outside the United States.
Other US banks are reluctant to switch over to microchip technology due to the massive cost of installing new card readers and reissuing millions of new credit cards. Eventually, albeit slowly, experts believe the switchover will happen, but for now, travellers should check for cards with chips.