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EMV Debit Card Myths – BUSTED!

man putting debit card in a handheld credit card processor
December 05, 2015

By Alissa Green

I remember when ATMs were first introduced; I heard a lot of myths. I only deposited small checks until I felt more comfortable. And the ATM rumors – that your card would be eaten or that your checks would vanish -- went around the news like wildfire. Now, similarly inaccurate rumors are swirling around, this time about EMV debit and credit cards and fraud. 

We’ve gathered the most common myths. Can you tell which are true and which are false?
 

1. It’s not safe to use your old debit card. You should only use it for the ATM until you get your new EMV debit card. 

That’s FALSE!  When using your non-EMV debit card, you are not liable for fraudulent purchases according to Visa’s Zero Liability1  policy – as long as you sign for your purchase. This applies specifically to Alliant cards, but likely includes your debit or credit card, no matter your financial institution. Keep in mind that your liability as a consumer hasn’t changed. Using your PIN code is typically safe, but does not guarantee zero liability to you, the purchaser. It does guarantee reduced liability to merchants, though, which is why you may be pushed to use your pin at the register. 
 

2. It is against the law not to have an EMV card.

False.  Just, false. Issuing an EMV card is a choice by issuers like Alliant. Merchants also have the option to use EMV chip card readers.  However with EMV technology, the liability to cover potentially fraudulent transactions has changed. It now lies with the company that neglected to offer the highest level of security. If the card is an EMV card, but the retailer offers only swipe technology, the retailer has to cover the fraud liability. If the retailer offers chip terminals, but the consumer’s card is only magnetic stripe, then the card issuer is liable.  
 

3. I should start using my PIN instead of signing for a purchase. 

FALSE. For our Alliant cardholders, signing is safer for cardholders due to our cards’ Visa Zero Liability policy (see question no. 1 above).
 

4. My magnetic stripe is still safe. 

That’s TRUE! The fraud exposure is still the same as it was a year ago. The biggest difference with the EMV card is who will pay for the losses on fraud -- issuers (like Alliant) or merchants (like Macy’s).
 

5. I cannot use my current non-EMV magnetic stripe credit or debit card moving forward. 

FALSE! That’s FALSE. The magnetic stripe is accepted worldwide, but merchants may prefer you use the EMV card.
 

6. The EMV chip will eliminate fraud altogether.

We wish this were true but...it’s false. Think of how often you use your debit card without physically swiping, for instance, when making online transactions. Or even by ordering pizza and paying for it over the phone. 

Unfortunately, using the EMV debit card won’t make us invincible to crooks. It’s still important for all of us to be vigilant against fraud. Also, keep in mind that the EMV card is just the first step of many more to come that will help mitigate fraud. 

Tokenization will be the next big improvement; tokenization protects card data by replacing the card's Primary Account Number (PAN) with a unique, randomly generated numbers). Tokenization is already here in limited use (Apple Pay, Visa Checkout), but experts expect more broad use to occur in coming years.  Learn more about Tokenization


1. Visa’s Zero Liability policy covers U.S.-issued cards only and does not apply to ATM transactions, PIN transactions not processed by Visa or certain commercial card transactions. Cardholder must notify issuer promptly of any unauthorized use. For more information, visit http://usa.visa.com/personal/security/visa_security_program/zero_liability.html.