America’s Best EMV ‘Chip With Signature’ Credit Cards
If you’ve gotten a new credit card recently, you may have noticed it has a tiny microchip embedded in it. This is an EMV chip, and you’ll likely see one in each of your cards soon. But don’t worry, this is a positive change: EMV chips make your point-of-sale transactions more secure and allow you to pay for goods and services at chip-only terminals.
Read on to learn all about EMV technology, as well as our favorite chipped cards and how to switch from swiping to dipping when you pay with plastic.
Table of Contents
- What EMV is and why it matters
- Recommended EMV cards
- How to use your EMV credit card
- List of American EMV chip-and-signature credit cards
- Worldwide EMV adoption rates by region
- Worldwide acceptance: Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express?
What EMV is and why it matters
Europay, MasterCard and Visa developed these chips to make transactions more secure. Instead of processing limited data like a magstripe card, EMV technology allows dozens of pieces of non-static information to be transferred between the card, the terminal and the financial institution that processes credit card transactions for the merchant.
Chip technology mostly eliminates the risk of credit card skimming, a common practice for thieves committing credit card fraud. Fraudsters use a card-reading device to skim credit card information from a traditional magstripe card and load it onto a prepaid card. However, with an EMV chip, the card’s many pieces of data change for each transaction. Therefore, any skimmed information would be useless for the thief.
EMV cards have two major card verification methods: chip-and-PIN and chip-and-signature. Chip-and-signature — which allows you to verify your identity with a signature — is the most popular method in the U.S. due to its low cost and ease of use.
Chip-and-PIN cards, which are verified by a four- to six-digit PIN, are more widely used in Europe. Because it’s more difficult to replicate a PIN than a signature, chip-and-PIN cards are thought to be more secure, and certain overseas merchants only accept PIN-capable cards. If you’re planning on traveling internationally, you may want to consider a card with a PIN.
If your credit card isn’t chipped yet, it likely will be soon. In October 2015, a policy change called the “liability shift” will occur, placing the blame for fraudulent transactions on the issuer that doesn’t issue chipped cards and merchants that don’t accept them.
As it stands now, issuers alone are typically liable for credit card fraud, but now the blame will go to whichever party isn’t EMV capable, or it will be shared if both parties neglected to update. So while neither issuers nor merchants are being forced to upgrade to EMV technology, they have a strong financial incentive to do so.
Recommended EMV cards
If you’re in the market for a chipped card, here are some of our favorite options:
Best for travel optimizers: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
A point is only as good as its value. In this case, a point is worth 1.25 cents (the industry standard is 1 cent) when used to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. You can also transfer your points to one of Chase’s partner’s frequent flier programs. If you’re mile-savvy, you may be able to get an even better deal this way.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95, and no foreign transaction fees.
Best for cooks & commuters: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
on American Express's
on American Express's
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has a $75 annual fee and foreign transaction fees of 2.7%. The card has an introductory APR offer of 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 21.99% Variable .
Best for flexible fliers: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a great card if you want to book travel your way. It offers 2 miles on every dollar spent, plus a sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel. You can use your miles to book travel through the Capital One platform, or use the Purchase Eraser feature to get a statement credit for travel booked elsewhere.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has an annual fee of $0 intro for first year; $59 after that and no foreign transaction fees.
Best for online shoppers: Discover it®-Double Cash Back your first year
This card is great for online shoppers for two reasons. First, the bonus categories in the fourth quarter historically include online purchases, so you may be able to get 5% back on up to $1,500 of online spending between October and December. Second, the Discover Deals bonus mall is one of the best in the industry. It offers 5% to 20% back at more than 200 online retailers.
The Discover it®-Double Cash Back your first year has an annual fee of $0 and no foreign transaction fees. There’s an introductory APR of 0% on purchases for 12 months and 0% on balance transfers for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 10.99% - 22.99% Variable.
Best for world travelers: Wells Fargo Propel World American Express
on Wells Fargo's
on Wells Fargo's
The card’s annual fee is waived the first year and $175 every year thereafter, and there are no foreign transaction fees. Plus, there’s an airline incidental fee of up to $100 per year, reimbursable via statement credit.
How to use your EMV credit card
The process for using an EMV credit card is different than using a magstripe card, but you’ll catch on quickly. Instead of swiping, insert your card into the terminal and leave it there. Then follow the prompts of the terminal screen and wait to remove your card until the receipt begins printing. Just be careful not to leave your card behind.
It may take some time to get used to using your EMV card, but the extra security the card provides will be well worth the transition from swiping to “dipping.”
List of American EMV chip-and-signature credit cards
Current as of June 26, 2015
Here are the personal U.S. credit cards with EMV compatibility from the biggest card issuers:
- American Express
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express & Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
- The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express & The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express® Green Card
- American Express® Gold Card
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
- Delta Reserve Credit Card
- Plenti Credit Card from American Express
- Bank of America
- BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ credit card
- BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card
- BankAmericard® Visa® credit card
- BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card for Students
- BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ credit card for Students
- BankAmericard® Visa® credit card for Students
- Alaska Airlines Credit Card
- AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card
- Bank of America Royal Caribbean Platinum Plus
- Virgin Atlantic Credit Card
- Asiana Airlines Credit Card
- Norwegian Cruise Line MasterCard
- Bank of America Spirit Airlines World MasterCard
- Capital One
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Freedom®
- Chase Slate®
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Hyatt Credit Card
- Ritz-Carlton® Rewards Credit Card
- United MileagePlus® Club Card
- Amazon Credit Card
- Citi: All consumer and college credit cards
- Discover: All consumer and college credit cards
- Wells Fargo: All consumer and college credit cards
If your current card is on the list, but it isn’t chipped, you can contact your issuer and request a new card. Issuers may not preemptively send out chipped cards to existing cardmembers until the liability shift occurs, but they will issue them to cardholders who ask.
Worldwide EMV adoption rates by region
Not entirely sure you need an EMV credit card? Here are EMV adoption numbers for regions around the world. As the data demonstrates, the EMV system has the strongest presence in western Europe, which includes the likes of Germany, Spain, France, Italy and England. While useful for adventures anywhere around the globe, chip-with-signature cards are absolutely vital to the success of Europe-bound travelers.
|EMV Credit Card Adoption Rates|
|Western Europe & Greenland||833M||83.5%|
|Canada, Latin America & the Caribbean||544M||59.5%|
|Africa & the Middle East||116M||50.5%|
Source: EMVCo, reporting on Q4 of 2014
Worldwide acceptance: Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express?
Visa and MasterCard are the two most widely accepted payment networks in the world, so most travelers won’t notice a difference in acceptance rates. However, Discover and American Express are accepted by fewer merchants in fewer countries. And while Discover happens to be the most prevalent payment network in China, those who travel to other countries may have a hard time finding someone to accept their Discover card or AmEx card.
Acceptance rate isn’t the only factor to consider; foreign transaction fees can make a huge difference. Many cards tack on fees of around 3% on every international purchase. Visa, MasterCard and American Express all offer cards with and without these fees, while Discover waives the fee on all of its cards. Check out the Nerds’ top cards with no foreign transaction fees if you travel or shop overseas.
Each network offers its own unique collection of travel benefits, like purchase protection, roadside assistance and rental car insurance. Visa and MasterCard offer similar perks, check your card benefits for details. American Express offers bonus benefits, including superior purchase and return protection. Discover falls short on rental coverage, because it doesn’t offer loss of use coverage on rental cars, but the issuer has recently added several benefits — including return and purchase protection.
Image via iStock.