Credit cards (and the way we use them) are undergoing a transformation. By now, any cards you have should have been replaced by a new card with “chip and PIN” technology. You’ll notice a little square chip on the front side of the card:
In the future, that chip will always be used instead of the magnetic strip on the back to transfer your card information to the merchant. You insert the card into the bottom of the card reader and hold it there, and the card reader takes your info from the chip. This is significantly more secure than the old swipe the magnetic strip method. And eventually, the old procedure of signing for purchase will be replaced by the entering of a PIN number.
And while the card providers have done a good job of issuing the new cards to move toward this technology, the merchants are slow to catch up. Most places I shop are still using the old swipe and sign method. And those merchants who do have the new “dip the chip” technology in place (so far I’ve only found it at Wal-Mart and Target) are still using signature rather than PIN….and that isn’t expected to change any time soon. If you happen to travel to Europe, however, make sure you know the PIN for your credit card. They’ve been using chip and PIN for years.
The U.S. is a bit slow to catch on to this technology, but in the future it should be helpful in reducing fraudulent card use. And this ultimately protects you. Change is hard. But most times it is worth it.