Pin Or Signature Emv Chip Cards

EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) chip card use has continued to expand in use since its tumultuous rollout in 2015. The EMV standard has now become a global standard for cards equipped with computer chips and the technology used to authenticate chip-card transactions. Yet, while time has provided customers and businesses with more education on the security benefits of EMV card chips, many businesses and consumers are still confused about key components.

One area that continues to cause confusion is the difference between ‘chip and PIN’ and ‘chip and signature’. 


  • Chip and PIN vs chip and signature refers to the way the cardholder provides authorization for the purchase. Chip and PIN cards are authorized with the cardholder’s personal identification number (PIN), while chip and signature are authorized by the cardholder’s signature that is matched to the back of the card or to a signature on file in the credit card’s database.
  • Whether signature or PIN authorized, EMV chip cards are the new global standard for debit and credit cards due to the increased security of EMV technology over the classic magstripe.
  • The chip does not affect the price of processing payments. You will still be subject to the costs of debit vs. credit payments, etc.
  • During the EMV chip card rollout, consumers reported frustration with slower transaction times. However, there are very few problems associated with EMV cards as of now.

So what is the difference between these two EMV chip card payment formats?

What Types of EMV Chip Cards Are There?

There are two types of EMV chip cards – ‘chip and PIN’ cards, and ‘chip and signature’ cards. 

A consumer using a chip and PIN card will enter their PIN (Personal Identification Number) to authorize a purchase. The PIN adds an extra layer of security, as it verifies that the person using the card is the rightful owner. If the PIN entered matches the one associated with the card, the transaction is approved. If not, the transaction may be declined. PIN cards are commonly used in regions where PIN authentication is prevalent, such as Europe and many other parts of the world.

A consumer using a chip and signature card will sign for the purchase. The signature is compared with the one on the back of the card or with the signature stored in the card issuer’s system. If the signatures matches, the transaction is typically approved. Signature cards are more commonly used in regions where signature-based authentication is the norm, such as the United States. However, the adoption of signature cards has been decreasing in favor of PIN cards and other authentication methods.

EMV technology is designed to reduce credit card fraud, particularly counterfeit card fraud, by making it more difficult for criminals to create counterfeit cards. The chip in an EMV card generates a unique code for each transaction, making it nearly impossible for fraudsters to duplicate the card’s information for fraudulent purposes. 

However, the level of security provided can vary depending on whether the card is used with a PIN or a signature. Generally, PIN transactions are considered more secure because they rely on a secret code known only to the cardholder, whereas signatures can be forged or otherwise bypassed more easily.

Currently, in the United States, most credit cards are chip and signature, while most debit cards are chip and PIN. Like magnetic strip credit cards, you sign for a purchase when using a chip credit card. When using a chip debit card, you enter a PIN just as you did with your magnetic strip debit card.

It’s worth noting that credit card companies have begun to experiment with new, more secure forms of authentication, due to the insecurities both PIN and signatures face. The not-too-distant future may feature ‘chip and biometric’ cards.

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What Are the Costs to Accept EMV Chip Cards?

At the time of this writing, there is no difference in cost to accept chip cards as opposed to magnetic strip cards. For example, if your customer uses a chip rewards card, the cost will be the same if they use a magstripe rewards card.

There can be differences in costs to process chip and PIN cards in contrast to chip and signature cards. If a customer uses a chip and PIN debit card, it may be less expensive than if they use a chip and signature card. This is due to the fact that PIN debit processing costs are often lower than credit card processing costs.

Since chip and PIN are typically only available on debit cards in the United States, it is safe to assume that chip and PIN may be cheaper as a result.

Can I Run an EMV Debit Card “as credit”?

Just because there’s no difference in cost to accept chip cards vs. magstripe cards doesn’t mean there aren’t still fluctuations in costs. This is especially true when accepting debit cards, which can be authorized with either a PIN or a signature.

Many chip debit cards provide the option to skip PIN entry and run the card “as credit” instead. The cardholder will sign for the transaction instead of entering a PIN.

When running the debit card “as credit,” the transaction will be charged according to the debit rates noted in Visa and Mastercard’s interchange tables, not according to the debit network fee schedules. In some cases, it’s less expensive for a merchant to accept PIN debit cards than signature debit cards.

Related Post: The True Cost of Debit Card Transactions

When purchasing equipment or deciding on how you’ll accept cards, consider adding a PIN pad so customers can enter PINs for debit transactions.

It’s also worth noting that even though chip cards do not cost more to process by default, some processing companies impose “EMV Non-Enabled” fees for merchants that can’t or won’t accept chip cards. You’ll need to have and use EMV-capable equipment to avoid those fees.

What’s the Difference Between EMV and NFC technologies?

EMV and NFC (Near Field Communication) technologies both came out around the same time and both are involved in the payment process—which can make them easy to confuse. They are quite distinct technologies, though.


As mentioned, EMV technology focuses on securing card-present transactions through the use of chip cards. The goal of EMV is to reduce counterfeit card fraud and unauthorized use of lost or stolen cards and exclusively deals with payment cards.


On the other hand, NFC is a short-range wireless communication technology that enables devices, such as smartphones or contactless cards, to communicate with each other when brought into close proximity (usually within a few centimeters). This means that NFC technology is not limited to payment applications and can be used for a wide range of purposes beyond payments, such as data exchange and access control.

In the context of payments, NFC technology allows for contactless transactions where the payment device (e.g., smartphone or contactless card) is simply tapped or waved near a compatible payment terminal to complete a transaction.

NFC technology is commonly used in contactless payment systems, mobile payment apps (e.g., Apple Pay, Google Pay), and transit systems for fare payment.

Do I Need a Special Payment Processor for EMV Chips?

The short answer to this is yes, you need to have a payment processor with a chip reader either in addition to or instead of the classic magstripe reader. At this point, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a new card reader that doesn’t feature a chip reader, though, so it’s hard to go wrong. (Need some help choosing the right card reader for your business? Check out this guide!) 

How Does EMV Affect Card-Not-Present Transactions?

While EMV technology primarily aims to enhance security for card-present transactions, where the card is physically present in-person at the point of sale, its implementation has had implications for card-not-present (CNP) transactions. (Purchases where the cardholder is not physically present, such as eCommerce or over-the-phone purchases.) 

That said, EMV chip cards have had some effect on CNP transactions:

  • With the widespread adoption of EMV chip technology for card-present transactions, there’s been a liability shift for fraudulent transactions from the card issuer to the merchant if the merchant does not support EMV transactions. However, this shift in liability does not apply to CNP transactions. 
  • Tokenization, which replaces sensitive card data with a unique token, has become more prevalent in CNP transactions. Instead of transmitting actual card numbers, merchants and payment processors exchange tokens that are meaningless to fraudsters if intercepted. This helps mitigate the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access to cardholder information.
  • Some EMV card issuers offer dynamic authentication methods, such as one-time passwords or biometric authentication, for CNP transactions. These methods add an extra layer of security by ensuring that each transaction requires unique authentication credentials, making it more difficult for fraudsters to gain unauthorized access to cardholder accounts.

Are There Any Known Problems in Using EMV Chip Cards?

At the introduction of EMV chips, consumers frequently complained that the transaction speed was much slower than the standard magstripe card. This was the main problem associated with EMV chips and has largely been resolved with time. 

Some merchants do still report issues with chip cards, particularly EMV PIN debit cards. Problems include terminals not requiring PIN entry, lack of cashback options when using a debit card, and terminals not permitting a customer to skip PIN entry.

There are several possible reasons for the issues, including terminals not set up correctly and customers choosing the wrong option. If your machine isn’t prompting for PINs (or requires PIN entry and won’t allow signature authorization instead) it’s a good idea to contact your merchant services provider to troubleshoot the problem.

One other issue that EMV chip cards face is card cloning. 

Card cloning, also known as skimming, involves copying the information stored on the magnetic stripe or EMV chip of a legitimate payment card onto another card, typically a blank card or a card with a stolen or expired account number. 

Here’s a general overview of how card cloning works:

  1. Fraudsters use a device called a skimmer to illegally capture credit card information. Skimmers can be installed on legitimate card readers, such as ATMs or POS terminals. When a card is inserted into the compromised device, the skimmer reads and stores the card’s data, including the card number, expiration date, and sometimes the cardholder’s name. In addition to skimmers, fraudsters may also use hidden cameras or keypad overlays to capture PINs entered by cardholders during transactions. This information can be used in conjunction with the cloned card data to make unauthorized purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs.
  2. Once the card data has been captured, the fraudster typically transfers it to a blank magnetic stripe card or a counterfeit EMV chip card using a card writer or encoder. This creates a clone of the original card that contains all the stolen information.
  3. Before using the cloned card for fraudulent transactions, the fraudster may conduct small test transactions to ensure that the card works properly and that the stolen information is accurate. Once satisfied, they may proceed to make larger purchases or cash withdrawals, often in multiple locations to avoid detection. A fraudster may also sell the cloned card on the black market instead of using it directly themselves.

Final words

At Stax, we’re all about helping merchants implement robust payment security that go above and beyond security standards. To learn more, get in touch and learn how Stax integrated payment processing platform helps prevent fraud and safeguard payment data. 

Request a custom quote to see how the Stax integrated payment processing platform will work for you.

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FAQs about EMV chip cards

Q: What are the two types of EMV chip cards?

There are two types of EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) chip cards – ‘chip and PIN’ cards, and ‘chip and signature’ cards. The former requires a customer to enter their PIN to authorize a purchase while the latter necessitates a customer’s signature for the purchase.

Q: Which card type is more common in the United States, chip and PIN or chip and signature?

In the United States, most credit cards fall under the category of chip and signature, while most debit cards are chip and PIN.

Q: Are there cost differences when accepting chip and PIN vs. chip and signature cards?

Processing costs can vary when dealing with these two types of cards owing to the fact that PIN debit processing costs are often lower than credit card processing costs. Therefore, a chip and PIN debit card may be less expensive to process than a chip and signature card.

Q: Can an EMV debit card be run as credit?

Yes, many chip debit cards give the cardholder the option to skip PIN entry and run the card “as credit”. In this case, the cardholder signs for the transaction instead of entering a PIN.

Q: What are potential issues that can arise when using EMV chip cards?

Some merchants have reported problems related to EMV PIN debit cards, including terminals not requiring PIN entry, lack of cashback options with a debit card, and terminals not allowing a customer to skip PIN entry. Addressing these issues often involves contacting the merchant services provider or ensuring the terminals are correctly set up.

Q: Is there a difference in cost when accepting chip cards vs. magstripe cards?

As of present times, there is no cost difference when accepting chip cards as opposed to magstripe cards. However, fluctuations in costs may still occur, especially when accepting debit cards.

Q: Are there any additional fees for merchants who don’t accept chip cards?

Yes. Some processing companies impose “EMV Non-Enabled” fees for merchants who don’t have or don’t use EMV-capable equipment.

Q: What’s the significance of having a PIN pad in the transaction equipment?

A PIN pad allows customers to enter PINs for debit transactions. This can be a beneficial addition for merchants, especially given the cost benefits of processing PIN debit cards over signature debit cards.