Chip cards; coming to HCU soon?
||VISA credit and debit cards in the United States have used magnetic swipe technology for decades, while in Europe they've enjoyed the benefits of cards with computer chips in them. The European chip cards are also known as "Smart Cards". The chip in these cards is actually an encrypted computer microchip, which is very difficult to counterfeit and provides additional security
Chip cards haven't been popular in the US as we've had several issues slowing adoption;
(1) We were early adopters of magnetic swipe cards, so we had a large infrastructure in place before chips were a reality. (2) The US had a good communications infrastructure in place so most of our transactions were being approved in real time online, which is a much safer way to process a transaction.
Europe wasn't as developed in infrastructure or communications, with many of their transactions being stored and approved offline, which is a riskier way to process transactions. The chip card was a way for them to elevate their security to a reasonable level, given their limited infrastructure. They've since come a long way in their network capabilites and off-line transactions are the exception now in many countries.
Now however, card fraud has escalated to the point that we in the US need to introduce even more security measures to keep the bad guys at bay. Enter the chip card.
So when will all this happen, and when will HCU offer chip cards?
Currently VISA and MasterCard are paving the way with merchants, issuers (like HCU), networks, ATM vendors, etc. to build a chip card environment. However, it's a chicken and an egg thing at this point. Even if HCU had the capability to issue chip cards at this time, which we don't yet have, there would be a majority of merchants who would still have to swipe them, as they can't yet take advantage of chip technology. Also, ATM processors in the US all still use swipe technology, so the added benefits of the chip would be lost there as well.
Chip card production gets even a little more complex for us at HCU as we are an instant VISA card issuer, making our VISA debit and credit cards on site at each branch, for maximum convenience to our members.
With all of this said, rest assured we are working with vendors to offer chip cards at HCU. It's on our roadmap, and we expect to offer them beginning in the 2013-2014 time frame. Cards will have to be reissued, consumers will need to be educated about their options, and a lot of infrastructure will need to be replaced, but in the end our card systems will be more reliable and secure than ever before.
So what does all this mean for you, now? Your HCU VISA card will continue to work throughout the US just fine before, during, and after the transition. When you travel outside the US now it is possible, especially at self service terminals, that a US VISA card won't work because it lacks a chip. While this is still rare, it is growing more common every year. Once chip cards become the norm in the US, the world will have a more or less uniform system and your HCU VISA will again work at every place VISA is accepted worldwide.