New credit card technology can't come soon enough

Last week one of our credit cards was compromised. Again. Oh, and we learned that thieves stole more than $100 from one of our prepaid cards.

A new credit card is on its way, and after I pushed a bit, the money has been restored to the prepaid card. Federal laws and issuer liability waivers do, after all, protect us when fraud occurs.

But I'm getting thoroughly sick of having credit card accounts frozen without warning. I'm tired of spending time on the phone with fraud reps, repeating the account number and the last four digits of my Social Security number over and over and over. I'm annoyed about waiting days to have new cards sent out.

I've lost count of how many times we've had to go through this rigmorale in recent years. I do everything it's reasonably possible to do to avoid fraud, and still, it happens.

This is all so unnecessary. In Europe and most of the rest of the world, the easily compromised magnetic-strip cards we use here in the States are history. Instead, they use the much more secure chip-and-PIN technology, which has dramatically reduced fraud rates.

It's so effective, in fact, that the bad guys increasingly are focusing on the U.S. because we're such easy pickings.

We'll be getting chip and PIN in the U.S. -- eventually. Some issuers are starting with so-called chip and signature cards. The computer chip is hard to replicate, so that cuts down on fraud, but anyone who steals your actual card will still be able to use it with just a signature.

The issuers worry we'll be confused by the new technology because it works a little differently. Instead of swiping your card on the side of the checkout terminal, you insert your card in a little slot at the bottom of the terminal and then enter your personal identification number (PIN). It takes a few seconds, and you're done.

It's not rocket science, and it's not inconvenient. But until the migration to chip and PIN is complete -- which experts say will be around 2020 -- credit cards will still inconvenience us in ways that really matter.

  • Liz Weston

    Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a personal finance website, and author of "Your Credit Score." Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.