STCU Begins Issuing Secure, Microchip Credit Cards

In the wake of the massive breach of credit card data at Home Depot, STCU announced that it has begun issuing new, more secure “chip cards” to its credit card customers. These cards, which are already common in Canada, Europe and Asia, rely on microchip technology that is more secure than the magnetic strip technology that today’s cards employ.

“Smart cards are the future,” said Russell Palmer, manager of the card services department at STCU. “With an embedded, encrypted chip in your card, the STCU Visa is safe from Spokane to Sidney.”

The new technology is more secure because it’s harder to copy account information from microchips than from a magnetic strip, and the new cards generate a unique code for each transaction, making them harder to hack or counterfeit.

Merchants have to upgrade their systems to read the new cards, and adoption in the U.S. has been slow. However, credit card networks have set a deadline of October 1, 2015 for merchants to adopt the technology. Merchants who miss the deadline will face increased liability for fraudulent purchases.

“Until merchants upgrade their terminals,” said Katie Clark, regulatory and compliance analyst for the Northwest Credit Union Association, “the new cards won’t help protect from these data breaches. We’ll most likely see the upgrade to the new cards accelerate as we approach next October, when the liability for fraudulent in-person purchases could shift to the merchants.”

STCU’s updated cards will include both the traditional magnetic strip and the new microchip, so they will work whether or not a merchant has upgraded.

Initially, STCU is issuing the more secure cards to members who often travel internationally, where the cards are standard. By the end of 2015, though, they plan that all STCU credit cards will be equipped with the new technology.

Debit card upgrades will follow, said STCU, with the transition starting in late 2015 or early 2016.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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