Debit cards are handy to use and have become an integral part of our life with its integral feature of cash collection. A debit card looks a lot simpler and easier but contains numerous complex systems. Ever wondered why the debit card contains so much information printed on it? Why does it have a black strip, a WiFi symbol and a EMV Chip?
The WiFi looking symbol on a debit or credit card is the EMVCo Contactless Indicator. If you have this symbol on your card, it means your credit or debit card has the contactless feature and can be tapped to pay. Contactless cards don’t necessarily need to be swiped to make a transaction. These cards come with Near Field Communication (NFC) chip that allows short-range data transfer without the need to touch the point of sale (PoS) device.
A debit card contains black strip which is a magnetic strip and thus often called a magstripe. This black strip stores a lot of information. The magstripe is made up of tiny iron-based magnetic particles in a plastic-like film. Each particle is really a very tiny bar magnet about 20 millionths of an inch long.
The magstripe on the back of the card is very similar to a piece of cassette tape fastened to the back of a card. Information is recorded onto the magnetic stripe as difference in patterns of magnetization. The built-in reader of an ATM machine detects these differences and decodes the stored information whenever one swipes the card. This is vaguely similar to how a barcode is read.
EMV chips transmit data just as magnetic strips on cards transmit data. However, payment terminals don’t read EMV chips the same way they read magnetic strips. Hackers can clone magnetic stripes and make duplicate cards. To solve this problem, EMV chips were introduced. EMV stands for EuroPay Mastercard Visa Chip. These chips have made the cards much more secure.
A card with an EMV chip typically must be inserted into the slot of a payment terminal, which then reads the chip’s data and verifies the card as authentic. You then must wait for the purchase to be authorized. This process is known as “dipping.”
One key difference between an EMV card and a magnetic strip card is that the EMV card produces a unique code for each transaction but the magnetic strip does not. As such, it’s harder for fraudsters to steal data to produce counterfeit cards. That’s why merchants and card issuers prefer EMV transactions, even though they are more complicated than magnetic strip transactions.
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