If you've been asked to swipe your credit card lately, you may have noticed a new machine at checkout. Or perhaps you opened the mail to find a brand-new Visa with a shiny microchip embedded in the front.

In fact, by the end of the year, your whole wallet will have undergone an overhaul, with all your old credit cards replaced with new-and-improved chip cards.

Here are the details:

What's a Microchip Card?
These microchip cards have been around in Europe awhile, but are relatively new to the U.S. Essentially, these cards make identity theft/fraud a lot less likely. The microchips are encrypted in such a way that they create a unique code for each transaction, making it nearly impossible for hackers to steal authentication numbers from your card.

Why the Massive Overhaul?
The old "strip" style credit cards are relatively easy for thieves to duplicate. Here's how: thieves will steal your card or secretly swipe it into a reader, then “clone” your card and use it until you catch on and cancel the card. However, the new embedded microchips make your card much harder to clone. Also, their ability to create one-use transaction codes helps make them safer.

What to Expect?
Checkout takes a little longer. You can't swipe your card at the beginning of a transaction; you'll have to wait until the end. Also, many retailers still haven’t upgraded their payment systems to accept the new chip cards, so you'll have to choose your payment method at the end. All machines should be updated by 2017, however -- but until then, your checkout process might take a little longer. (But, all in the name of safety, right?)

What's Next?
As safety and security tightens, credit cards are going to become a lot safer for consumers. Up next: an optional “on-off” switch on credit and debit cards that allows you to temporarily “turn off” your card.

Remember: while security is tightening, it's up to you to take responsibility for your card. Use caution when shopping online -- and review those credit card statements each month for any unauthorized activity!

Source: 1. Forbes,
6 Things To Know About EMV Chip Credit Cards | 2. FDIC, What's This Computer Chip Doing in My Credit Card?

Photo credit: frankieleon, Rainbow of Credit.

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