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Four things to know about the change in credit cards starting Thursday

A credit card with an EMV microchip is read at a Walmart Supercenter. The new chip-enabled credit and debit cards are designed to thwart data breaches. [Bryan Anselm | The New York Times)
Published Oct. 1, 2015

Ever notice that shiny gold or silver chip embedded in your credit card?

Starting today, restaurants and retailers are responsible for scanning these chips as a safer way to pay for stuff. The chips are part of a system, also known as Europay Mastercard Visa, used for years in European countries. It is meant to keep consumers' personal information safe after several large data breaches at major retailers like Target and Neiman Marcus significantly increased the risk of credit card fraud.

The liability for fraudulent transactions made with counterfeit or stolen credit cards also will shift from the banks to merchants. That means restaurants, coffee shops, retail stores and other businesses are responsible for fraudulent charges made on their point-of-sale devices.

Here's what you need to know going forward.

How to use it: You will no longer have to swipe the magnetic stripe on the back of a credit card. To use EMV chips, you insert cards into a terminal slot, similar to an ATM, or place it on a card reading tray, sort of like when paying by phone through Apple Pay or Google Wallet. Sometimes you may be prompted to enter a personal identification number. At restaurants, servers will bring mobile point-of-sale EMV devices to the table.

How does it work: The new chip in credit and debit cards creates new data every time it's used, making it much harder for scammers to steal personal information. It does not, however, provide this extra protection when making purchases online.

What if I don't have an EMV chip card yet?: More than six in 10 Americans still don't have chip-enabled credit cards, according to a report by CreditCards.com. Credit cardholders that make more than $75,000 a year are more than twice as likely to have an EMV card as cardholders in lower income brackets, the report said. Credit card companies are slowly replacing old customer cards with the new chip-embedded technology, but all cards will still have a magnetic strip to swipe and pay the old way. Merchants are not being forced to upgrade. They just assume greater risk by not doing so.

Will this hurt small businesses? There are some up front costs for small businesses that want to be EMV compliant. New point-of-sale terminals with EMV reader technology costs up to $1,000, but once installed, business owners are less likely to incur fraudulent charges. Experts say the change won't affect sales at retailers or restaurants, though in some cases it will require customers to enter a tip in front of their server. The EMV chips make it much harder for a store or restaurant employee to steal your personal information, too, as cards are usually charged at the table or right in front of you.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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