For consumers around the world, the process of paying for an item with a plastic card instead of currency is a common practice. But what isn’t so common–at least for around 90% of the non-US retailers–is the threat of stealing data and duplicating consumers’ stolen cards.

credit card security

Why? Because of “chip and PIN” technology that requires a microchip-embedded card rather than the old magnetic stripe technology of yesterday. Unfortunately, for US consumers, chip credit cards are a newfangled appearance on the tech scene, with many consumers still carrying a bank-issued magnetic stripe credit card or debit card.

The US has been working to rollout the EMV card technology, but the process is a slow one. While retailers balked at upgrading their POS credit card readers, the consumers themselves were resistant to the cards. The endless wait  time for the card to be read–yes, all nine seconds of it–was too much for harried shoppers to deal with. While that’s a common derogatory blame associated with disgruntled consumers’ complaints, the reality is more that too many shoppers felt a “fear of the unknown” when the card reader would take longer than expected.

Fortunately, some headway has been made in speeding up the reader time of the chips, easing some of the anxiety around the cards. Sadly, it bears mentioning that US consumers aren’t fully aware of the ramifications of the chip card system. The Identity Theft Resource Center does offer some helpful suggestions:

First, unlike countries that require a one-time PIN to go with each transaction, US chip cards don’t offer that level of security, at least not yet. That means that the card is safer than a magnetic stripe card, but can still be used if you let it fall into the wrong hands. Without this two-step authentication process, it’s still a usable card.

Second, you’re every bit as vulnerable when online shopping as you were with the stripe card. Yes, it’s true that your data is expected to be more secure and ideally more protected from data breaches, but that doesn’t mean you can throw it about on every website you come across. Again, without two-step authentication through a PIN system, the card still works on every website you visit.

Finally, no matter where you live and shop, nothing will replace diligence when it comes to monitoring your credit reports, account statements, and financial institutions’ statements. By looking out for your own interests every time the statements are made available–whether online or on paper–you’ll be more likely to minimize any damage that a hacker can do.