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Finally: Chip-and-PIN Cards Are Here

Bank of America announced Monday that it will make chip-and-PIN credit cards available to large numbers of its cardholders. Here's what the company has planned:

  • All newly-issued Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust Accolade, BankAmericard Travel Rewards, BankAmericard Privileges, and Virgin Atlantic travel credit cards will automatically be chip-and-PIN cards. The bank also will upgrade existing customers in these card programs who have been identified as international travelers.
  • Users of BankAmericard Cash Rewards, BankAmericard Power Rewards, BankAmericard, AAA Members Rewards, NEA, Asiana Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines cards can request chip-and-PIN cards.

Also, the new Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve includes a chip. Moreover, it imposes no surcharge on foreign transactions.

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Finally—and too late for many summer travelers—these two big U.S. banks figured out that if you travel internationally, your credit card will be more useful if it has a chip as well as a magnetic stripe. That means you'll be able to use the card in almost all automatic dispensing machines of various types—rail/transit tickets, gasoline, whatever—including those that no longer take stripe cards. This also means fewer arguments with local merchants unfamiliar with stripe-card processing. Of course, the new cards will have a stripe for ongoing use in the U.S.

I've never heard a good reason why the U.S. banks have been so slow to add chips, but at least they're now catching up with what their customers really want. And now that Bank of America is upgrading its travel-related cards, I expect the other big banks will feel some pressure to get busy with similar offers. It's about time.

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