More than one billion credit cards are in circulation in the United States, but just a fraction are like the ones being made at the CPI Card Group in Colorado.
They have a computer chip which stores user information. Unlike the magnetic strips on the back of most cards where personal information is permanently stored, the data on the chips is encrypted with codes that change whenever the card is scanned.
"Therefore, if fraudsters get a hold of cardholder data, they're not able to duplicate that data authentication that is dynamic and changes for every transaction," the company's CEO, Steve Montross, said.Smart cards are widely used in Europe, Canada and Latin America. They are barely a blip in the United States where almost half of all credit-card fraud occurs.
"The chip is very different," said Tim Murphy of MasterCard. "It's like moving from an 8-track tape to an MP3 player."
MasterCard has teamed with Visa,
Discover, American Express and others to try to make the technology standard in
the United States.
costly to do," Murphy said. "It costs money for both merchants and
for banks to issue the cards - and then to upgrade their terminals to take the
cards. It's a little bit like thinking about if you wanted to redo all the
entrance and exits to the interstate system in the U.S."
But this technology only protects in-store transactions, so criminals could shift their focus online. It happened in England. After they switched to smart cards, the percentage of fraud committed online climbed from 23 percent to 65 percent.