Magnetic Credit Cards Phased Out Abroad

Card Declined. If you’re headed abroad this year, be prepared to see this message at every register. Europe, Canada and much of Asia no longer accept credit cards that use the familiar magnetic strip. Antiquated “swipe” cards have been phased out and replaced with cards that use an electronic chip and pin in nearly every country other than the United States. The EMV cards, which stands for Eurocard, Mastercard and Visa, have been around since early 2005, and are designed to limit credit card fraud by making cloning more difficult. The United States is the No. 1 country for credit card fraud. So why hasn’t this technology come to the United States?

The answer – cost. Merchants will have to carry the burden of purchasing new EMV card readers, which can cost hundreds of dollars, and customers aren’t demanding the switch. Adoption elsewhere was facilitated by card issuers threatening to transfer liability of fraud to stores if they did not make the switch. That has yet to happen in the United States, but it soon might. Credit card fraud costs issuers over $2.4 billion annually, and the U.S. has held the top spot for fraud for 5 years running. With that much loss, you can be sure we’ll see EMV become the standard in the U.S. soon.

In the meantime, many banks do offer EMV cards, if you specifically request them. If you’re planning a trip abroad this year, don’t get declined. Call your bank and order your EMV card now. There’s nothing worse than scrambling through the streets of an unfamiliar country in search of an ATM so you can pay your bar tab.

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