Insert or swipe? Contact 6 checks out the chip card transition

MILWAUKEE — Six months ago, the transition began to say so long to swiping debit and credit cards. But many shoppers still find them themselves sliding their cards at checkout.

It's a common question these days at cash registers: insert or swipe?

It's all thanks to the tiny chip being rolled out on debit and credit cards. It's called EMV technology and is basically a tiny computer in your wallet. 

"It has memory, an operating system, software and a processor on it," explained Jamie Topolski.

Topolski works for FiServ as the Director of Output solutions. He's also the company's EMV expert.

Topolski says the chip is designed to keep your information more secure.

"The chip is able to create a unique code for every single transaction. So even if a criminal is able to steal the information — they can't use it for any other transactions and they can't use it to make a fake card," Topolski said.

While the EMV technology is fairly new in the United States, it isn't actually new.

"These cards have been in existence in other countries since the mid-1990s," said Topolski.

EMV expert Jamie Topolski

He says the reason the U.S. didn't transition until late 2015 is because there wasn't a need.

"We're the last ones because we really were, believe it or not, the safest country," revealed Topolski.

So how is that transition going? FOX6's Contact 6 found out.

The Contact 6 producer and her husband checked it out during a weekend of shopping.

They hit 10 stores:

    All the stores they visited had the EMV terminals installed, but they didn't all work.

    Best Buy, Kohls and Starbucks accepted the chip card.

    Old Navy prompted for the chip card, but the Contact 6 producer ended up having to swipe the card.

    The rest of the stores were still using the magnetic stripe.

    Contact 6's findings didn't surprise Topolski.

    "Right now, a quarter of all merchants have the new terminals and are able to accept EMV transactions," Topolski said.

    So why did some of you get new cards six months ago? It's all about the fraud liability shift.

    If criminals get your account number and the store doesn't have the new chip reader, the store is responsible.

    If your financial institution did not issue you a new card, it's their problem.

    Either way, you're covered.

    "No matter if they have to continue to swipe the magnetic stripe or insert the chip, the consumers will be protected," Topolski said.

    Just remember to pay attention when you're at the register.

    "You just can't assume it works they way it the did last time or even the last 100 times you shopped at that store," Topolski advised.

    Be patient. In the end, it's about protecting your information.

    Contact 6 reached out to the seven retailers where the EMV terminal was not activated or didn't work.

    Bed Bath & Beyond, the owners of Buy Buy Baby, told Contact 6:

    "Bed Bath & Beyond continuously seeks to employ the highest standards of security. As we implement EMV technology, we will actually be adding protections that go above and beyond the chip and sign process. We are actively working with our industry partners to implement a system compatible with EMV that also includes end-to-end security as well as a smooth transaction process for our customers. We are on track to begin processing chip transactions during the first half of 2016; in the meantime, we continue to aggressively enforce our multiple layers of security protections."

    Meijer told Contact 6 you will see the technology in stores soon. They gave this statement:

    All Meijer stores are now equipped with the hardware to accept chip-enabled cards. We are currently in the process of validating the software to run the machines and that should be completed within the next few months.

    And, PetSmart told Contact 6:

    "The conversion process is underway, and it will be complete in all stores this summer."

    You can learn more about EMV technology and the chip card transition HERE.