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Chip & PIN FAQs for shops and shoppers

Chip & PIN Tecnology Works

The reason for introducing Chip & PIN on payment cards and on point of sale terminals was simple – to fight rapidly growing levels of counterfeit, skimming and 'lost and stolen' fraud which continued to grow at a rate of 30% year on year from the mid '90s.

A study by the European card schemes Europay, Visa and MasterCard (EMV) in 2002 suggested that credit card fraud would otherwise escalate beyond control. The 'do nothing' approach would have resulted in an estimated €30 million per annum in fraud losses in Ireland by 2005 and close to €70 million by 2008. In the U.K. that figure could potentially have reached £1 billion by 2008. The study became part of the business case for the implementation of Chip & PIN.

The levels of counterfeit and 'lost and stolen' fraud has fallen by as much as 70% since the introduction of Chip & PIN and there are other benefits too. Large shops, especially, save time processing sales because members of staff are not fumbling around looking for pens and they are not depending on staff to check every signature in order to protect against card crime.

Below, you will find answers to our frequently asked questions (FAQs) on Chip & PIN.

Will I need my PIN for mail order, telesales or Internet shopping?

Chip & PIN applies only in a face-to-face environment in shops. Your mail orders, teleshopping or internet shopping will be processed as they always have been. You will provide your card number, expiry date and in most cases, your security code from the back of your card. You should not provide your PIN. When a shop asks you for your card security code over the phone or on the internet, they are referring to the digits on the back of your card, which are usually on the signature panel. They are not asking for your PIN and should never do so.


My payment card doesn't have a Chip on it, can I still use it?

There are few remaining cards in Ireland that are not Chip & PIN enabled but the ones that remain will continue to be usable in shops, where the staff member will continue to swipe the card at the till and ask you to sign the receipt that prints out. Cardholders should be aware however that some retailers have introduced a policy of requesting additional identification from cardholders (such as photo ID) for non-Chip & PIN transactions. They are entitled to do this, as added security.


There is a Chip on my card but I don't know my PIN, what can I do?

If you don't know your PIN, contact your bank or card issuer who will send you out a reminder. The relevant phone number should be on the back of your card.


I will be visiting Ireland soon and my card is not a Chip & PIN card. Will shops accept it?

There sould be no reason for shops to decline your card purely on the basis of it being a non-Chip & PIN card. You should be able to use your card as you normally do. While almost all Irish retailers have upgraded their terminals to Chip & PIN technology, they continue to accept non-Chip & PIN cards, including those from countries that have not yet adopted the Chip & PIN system. Cardholders should be aware however that some retailers have introduced a policy of requesting additional identification from cardholders (such as photo ID) for non-Chip & PIN card sales. If you have any problems using your card, ask for a manager, who may be more familiar with payment card acceptance policies than their floor staff.


Will cardholders always have the option of signing instead of entering a PIN at the Point of Sale?

The full benefits of fraud prevention that Chip & PIN can provide will only come into effect when all Chip & PIN card transactions are verified using a PIN and the option for cardholders to sign for Chip & PIN sales has been removed. Since March 2007, the option for retailers to bypass the PIN has been taken away.


What are the benefits of Chip & PIN to my retail business?

Chip & PIN has a number of major benefits for retailers, as follows:

  • The transaction time is reduced, while keying in a PIN is faster than the signature process
  • Costs associated with card fraud are reduced, including a decline in chargeback volumes and other customer disputes
  • A key cost-saving benefit is the elimination of the paper trail, as retailers are no longer required to store receipts for Chip & PIN transactions (contact your card processor for more details)
  • The use of Chip & PIN shifts the onus of identifying the cardholder away from retail staff members, who no longer have to check signatures when a PIN is used
  • The sophistication of Chip cards means they can support add-on services, e.g. retailer loyalty schemes and similar
  • The increased security that Chip & PIN brings creates an opportunity to deploy unattended payment terminals in petrol stations, car parks and more.


What do I need to do if I own my terminal equipment but I don't currently use Chip & PIN?

  • Identify whether you can upgrade your equipment or if it needs to be replaced
  • Contact your terminal supplier immediately to arrange for the EFTPOS equipment to be replaced or upgraded
  • Relevant training for staff members needs to be carried out
  • Once new equipment has been installed, you should arrange live testing with your card processor
  • If you require further advice or guidance on Chip & PIN, please contact your card processor


I accept payment cards over the phone / on the internet / by mail order; how does Chip & PIN affect me?

Chip & PIN is relevant for face-to-face, point of sale transactions only. Your mail order / telesales / ecommerce transactions will be procesed just as they always were. You should never ask the cardholder for their PIN for these types of sales. For more information on securing your 'card not present' transactions see the Retailer section of this site, particularly the advice on 3D Secure and PCI DSS.


How will I know my PIN?

Your PIN is sent to you by your bank or card issuer in the post or via text. For security reasons, the PIN is sent to you in a separate mailing to your card. If you find it difficult to remember the PIN which your bank supplies, you can change it at most ATMs to one that you can easily remember.


Keeping your PIN secure

Your PIN (Personal Identification Number) is the key to your payment account and you need to make sure that it does not fall into the wrong hands.

  • When entering your four-digit PIN, cover the PIN pad with your free hand from the view of anyone who may be stanidng close by
  • Take care to destroy your PIN advice slip as soon as you have memorised the number
  • Never keep the PIN advice together with your Chip & PIN card
  • Do not write down your PIN or save it in your mobile phone in such a way that it can be easily discovered if someone were to steal your phone and payment cards together


What if I forget my PIN?

You should contact your card issuer who will re-issue your PIN


Tips on remembering your PIN

You can change the PIN which the bank provided to you to another number that suits you. However, if you still have difficulties, these are a number of ways to help remember your PIN:

  • Try using the anniversary date or a friend or a relative's birthday by combining the day and month or the month and year. For example, the 1st of June would be '0106' 
  • You should not use numbers that can be easily associated with you, for example your own date of birth. Unfortunately, if a handbag or wallet is stolen and the cards are accompanied by a passport or driving license or similar personal document, the thief will most likely attempt your date of birth as your PIN
  • Some people find it easier to break down a four digit PIN into two numbers. For example, '2114' as twenty one and fourteen
  • You should avoid popular number sequences such as 1234, 0000 or 9999 as these can be easily guessed by a thief
  • Rather than learn off a PIN, try learning the pattern that you trace on the keypad with your fingers
  • When you obtain your PIN, go somewhere quiet on your own and say it aloud several times; studies show that hearing your own voice reading something aloud helps to deepen the imprint of the number on your memory
  • When using your PIN in shops, don't worry if you get the number wrong the first time, you have three chances to enter the correct one before your card is blocked
  • If your PIN becomes blocked, contact your card issuer for advice
  • Never write down your PIN

If you are having difficulty remembering your PIN why not try this method, suggested by memory experts?

With the number-shape system, you picture each number between zero and nine as something that looks like its shape. This allows you to visualise numbers and makes them easier to remember. For example:

  • Picture zero as being a football
  • The number one, a pencil
  • Number two a swan or snake, and so on

Once the associations are made, you can create a story to remember the sequence of numbers. For instance, if your PIN is '2021' you could imagine yourself as a swan (2) playing football (0) while a snake (2) writes down your scores with a pencil (1). Believe it or not, the more odd the story, the stronger the chances of remembering it!!


Can I change my PIN?

You can change your PIN, as frequently as you like, at most ATMs using the 'PIN Management' option on the screen. Please consult your bank or card issuer for further guidance.


How do I unlock my PIN?

If you enter an incorrect PIN three times in a row at a Point of Sale or ATM, the PIN becomes locked and the card cannot then be used in a Chip & PIN environment. Please consult your bank or card issuer for guidance with regard to unlocking your PIN. The relevant phone number should be on the back of your payment card.