When I tried to use the smart chip in my credit card at my drugstore’s self-service kiosk, the machine gave me a malfunction error and wouldn’t process the payment. What causes that error and how fragile are these new cards?
A. When inserted into a special card reader, that small metallic microchip on the front of newer credit and debit cards processes transaction data in a more secure way than do older cards that simply encode the account information in a magnetic stripe on the back. The newer cards are also referred to as E.M.V. cards — short for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the three companies that founded the standard.
Like their magnetic-stripe predecessors, the smart chips on the front of the card can be damaged by scrapes from keys, coins and other items with sharp edges. Exposure to liquids and other substances can also harm the chip. Some users have even reported the entire chip itself falling off the card because of faulty adhesive or other issues. (A broken card reader may also be the culprit, so you might try using the card elsewhere to make sure it really is the smart chip itself malfunctioning.)
Even if the chip is damaged, the card may still be used for online purchases and other situations where the chip does not have to be dipped into a card reader — but you should get the card replaced as soon as possible. Most credit card issuers have a customer-service number on the back you can call to ask for a replacement. If you manage your card’s account online, check the company’s website for a “replace lost or damaged card” link.
When you get your new card, compare its information (like security code and expiration date) to see if you need to update any stored payment information or automatic bill-pay settings. Keep the new card — along with all your others — protected in a wallet or cardholder to avoid possible damage from other pocket or purse items.