American banks, retailers slow to adopt safer credit cards - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

American banks, retailers slow to adopt safer credit cards

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The United States is the only major country where banks still issue credit cards that have magnetic strips. The United States is the only major country where banks still issue credit cards that have magnetic strips.
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

There's a new defense against credit card fraud like the kind that Target customers experienced after Black Friday.

But no one in the United States can use it.

In places like Europe, swiping your credit card to buy something at the store is a thing of the past. It's an obsolete and unsafe practice. The United States is the only major country where banks still issue credit cards that have magnetic strips. Those strips are what hackers have been using to steal your identity. 

Consumer advocate Bob Sullivan explains, "That's how cards are cloned. Someone steals an account number, and a bad guy takes that account number and puts it on a new piece of plastic and goes to store and shops with it." 

A new invention called the smart card puts an end to that problem.  It's a credit card with a microchip embedded in the front that requires the customer to enter a pin in order to make a purchase.  

"I've got my own pin number that nobody else knows, so if someone steals it, they won't be able to get the money out," said Kate Paxton, a citizen of the United Kingdom. 

Unlike debit cards, forgers can't copy information from the chip onto a blank one.  

Customers at Target in Columbus are not impressed that American banks are so behind.  

"I feel like America has really taken a standpoint on being number one with everything. I mean, our military is number one, everything that we do is so ahead, and something as small as a strip... I don't understand why that can't be changed," said Target shopper Taylor Walls.

"It happened at Nieman Marcus just recently, so they're going to have to get their acts together if they're expecting to get people to keep coming, especially people who were affected. I really think that they should adopt it to just prevent something like this from happening again," said Alise Amos. 

Like most things, the biggest obstacle to widespread change is the cost. Businesses accepting the cards will have to get new equipment, and banks don't want to issue new cards until that happens. 

"It's very, very hard to transition to chip and pin. Every single one of those point-of-sale terminals that you get at every single checkout counter at every retailer... somebody would have to buy a new one for $500 or $1000 that reads these chips," said Sullivan. 

Right now, American banks are on track to start using these new chip cards by October 2015. Banks hope businesses will be motivated to get on board when they tell them they will be liable for any fraud associated with magnetic strip cards after that date.

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