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BofA adds chip and PIN cards

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Posted: 5 pm ET

Bank of America Merrill Lynch became the latest in a growing number of big issuers to offer chip-and-PIN credit cards to U.S. customers to make transactions more convenient abroad.

The bank said Tuesday it plans to add the feature -- in addition to the magnetic stripe -- to all its U.S. corporate credit cards starting in the first quarter of next year. It will join U.S. Bank, Citi, Chase and Wells Fargo in rolling out this type of card.

"The demand (for chip and PIN cards) is coming from our corporate clients who have large numbers of employees who travel internationally," says Louise Hennessy, a Bank of America spokeswoman.

The chip and PIN, or EMV-enabled, card contains an embedded microprocessor chip that encrypts transaction and account data differently every time the card is used. They are widely used in Europe, Asia and Latin America, which has caused problems for some U.S. globetrotters.

The Aite Group estimated that 9.7 million U.S. cardholders ran into trouble with their old-school cards in 2008. This typically occurs at unmanned train station kiosks, gas stations, tolls or at merchants in rural areas that only accept EMV cards.

EMV advocates also say this technology makes it nearly impossible for thieves to clone lost or stolen cards -- the reason behind its adoption abroad. The UK Cards Association and the Financial Fraud Action UK attribute a steep decline in counterfeit fraud losses since 2004 to broader usage of EMV cards in the country.

Visa is so convinced of the technology's enhanced security that it launched several initiatives in August to persuade U.S. retailers to upgrade their point-of-sale terminals to accept EMV cards stateside. MasterCard also is asking U.S. ATM owners to upgrade their machines to take the chip and PIN cards.

Still, the full migration of chip and PIN onto U.S. shores seems like years away at best. Bank of America says it is evaluating the technology for its nonbusiness, individual credit card holder, but did not give any concrete plans.

EMV stands for the developers of the technology: Europay, MasterCard and Visa. The chip and PIN nickname is widely used in Ireland and the U.K., and emphasizes that many of these cards require a personal identification number to authenticate a transaction. Bank of America's new cards will require a PIN, the company said.

What do you think of the push for chip and PIN cards here?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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2 Comments
Patrick
November 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

More Security and increased acceptance in Europe, Canada, and the rest of the world? Bring it here as quickly as possible!