Sam’s Club has announced that it will soon be issuing a chip-based credit card. Hooray! However, it’s a chip-and-signature card, not one of the more secure, more logical, and more universal chip-and-PIN cards. But wait:
The other major security technology widely used on credit cards elsewhere [i.e., every country on the planet except ours] is PIN codes, which are more difficult to fake than a scribbled signature. The Sam’s Club cards will be PIN enabled but will primarily verify users by signature. The next generation of the cards, however, will primarily require PIN verification when they are issued next year.
Hold on. When did this happen? A few months ago, America’s credit card issuers were insisting that chip-and-signature was the way to go. The transition plans were all in place and it was what everyone had agreed to. Retailers didn’t have the technology for chip-and-PIN and consumers didn’t want it, because we were all too stupid to get used to using a PIN code with our credit cards.
Now, suddenly, chip-and-PIN is right around the corner? What’s going on?
UPDATE: I guess I haven’t been paying attention. In December Wells Fargo announced that it would offer chip-based cards on request. “Technically speaking, they are chip-and-signature,” says a Wells Fargo spox, “though the chip does have a PIN and can accommodate a PIN-based transaction if the situation required it (e.g. an unattended or offline kiosk.)” And JPMorgan Chase says it will be offering chip-and-PIN cards later this year. I guess the chip-and-PIN bandwagon is starting to gain momentum.