Debit and Credit cards with European Mastercard & Visa (EMV) chip technology have been around for a while (note that the USA was well behind other countries in adopting this more secure technology). But what is the best strategy to use? There is no difference in the protections between debit and credit cards when the debit card is used like a credit card. Our Visa debit cards are every bit as secure as any credit card; just check Visa’s own website for details. We have had numerous “hacks” between two banks over the last ten years and every time money was put back immediately and our liability was zero. There are certain orders of operation to follow, however…

Chip-And-Signature vs Chip-And-PIN At almost all point-of-sale systems you are given the option of signing for the transaction or entering a PIN. According to this article from Krebs, chip-and-pin is more secure but chip-and-signature is “easier”, and it is what the banks want you to go with – purely from a marketing aspect. I’ll take the more secure chip-and-pin, please and thank you.

“We don’t really think we can teach Americans to do two things at once.” – explanation from one card issuer why they prefer chip-and-signature instead of the more secure chip-and-PIN.

If I am at a POS where I am forced to swipe my debit card (usually only at gas pumps) I never enter a PIN. The magnetic stripe that gets swiped is where all your personal information is stored. Regarding gas pumps, the manufacturers have been given until 2020 to switch over from swipe to chip.

It is interesting and more than a little confusing that when swiping, I never use my PIN but when “chipping”, I use the PIN as often as possible.

So here are the “rules”, if you will:

Gas Pumps I swipe my debit card and when the pump asks me “Is this a debit card?” I answer no. That way, I do not enter a PIN and it is processed through the Visa system, not my bank’s ATM system. I never, ever enter a PIN at a gas pump.

Everywhere Else Chip-and-PIN whenever possible. It is the most secure way of entering into a transaction because the combination of PIN and chip creates a stronger encryption. Chip-and-signature is my second choice if I have to. I never swipe and enter a PIN.

By the way, signing your debit / credit card ticket as a measure of “security” is really just a form of security theater. We think we’re doing something that makes us safer, but it isn’t at all.