Chip & PIN

The last time my credit card was compromised (seems to happen every 6-9 months to me) my bank sent me a new chip & PIN style card. At the only businesses I’ve been to that have chip & PIN setups (WalMart and a grocery store), I slide the card in and wait a bit and it says APPROVED! I Googled it and found that in lieu of the PIN, some merchants are opting for a signature instead. But these places aren’t requiring me to sign OR enter a PIN. So what’s the deal?

I don’t think that has anything to do with the chip & pin card. For a couple of years, I’ve found that some merchants don’t ask for a signature for small amounts. Typically this is under $25 but it’s under $50 at my supermarket. Perhaps they figure the convenience is worth the slight risk.

Ah, I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks.

Also, I received a chip & pin card from Chase. The paperwork that came with it said that if the machine prompts for a pin to just press cancel and enter a signature instead. In other words, they didn’t require me to set up a pin.

In the US, with very few exceptions, credit card issuers are issuing Chip & Signature cards, not Chip & PIN cards. These are compatible with the foreign Chip & PIN cards, except at a few offline terminals. The examples everyone uses are unattended gas pumps and ticket machines at unattended train stations.

The Chip & Signature cards basically are treated the same as the old magnetic stripe cards: If the merchant did not require a signature with the magnetic stripe, they won’t require one with Chip & Signature either. Certain categories of merchants are not required to obtain signatures when the purchase is below a certain threshold.

At local Wall*Mart’s & a few other places, I get auto authorization/acceptance up to $xx.xx

If I go to a new store that is also over about 50 miles away, it will take a few trips or several amounts of time before I get the same deal. ( seems to be some internal catching up that needs to happen.

It seems to be a $ amount, repeat customer local address on the credit card billing address combination.

Lowe’s & Tractor Sup-ply seem to be a bit slower to give it to me but faster system wide acceptance. (Different software in their system? Or corporate policy?)

Alley Dweller is 1000% correct, nothing to add for background.

There are a few US card issuers that do issue chip & pin cards - Google is your friend to find which. I got one for foreign travel and funny enough, about half the time the portable machines used like at a restaurant table will spit out a receipt and ask for a signature all the same. My guess is that in some countries, the banks must require the stores to get a signature when a non-local card is used. My chip & pin card does work with a PIN at the aforementioned unattended machines, like at gas stations and machines for bus/train tickets. At which my Chase chip & signature card will not work.

I believe it is going the other way in Canada. All three of my credit cards, as well as my debit card have a chip and require me to enter a pin, Mastercard, Amex and Visa.
It’s been years since I have had to put a signature on a printout.
I just checked my 4 cards and I only put signatures on two of them. And I don’t ever recall a merchant asking to see the signature.

What’s the difference between Chip & Pin and Chip & Signature cards? I would think they’re the same thing and any difference is in the rest of the system (whether it demands a PIN or accepts a signature).

The chip itself has the authorized “Cardholder Verification Methods” encoded into it. See "How are cardholders verified with EMV?" The chip can have multiple Cardholder Verification Methods (CVM) encoded on it, in order of preference. The payment terminal selects the first CVM that it also supports. Most US cards are encoded to support only “Signature Verification.” In most of the rest of the world, cards are encoded to support online PIN and/or offline PIN.

An “offline terminal” is a payment device that is not connected to an external verification system (no phone line or data link or cellular data link, etc). The terminal, with no input from the outside world, has to determine whether to accept or decline the card locally. This is the problem with these unattended train station machines or gas pumps. They pretty much all demand that the chip have an offline PIN that they can verify (i.e. a PIN encoded on the chip itself). Most US issuers do not issue cards with offline PINs.