The Payment’s Trident: EMV

Backspace Tech
6 min readApr 26, 2024

Three friends got together — let’s call them Evie, Max, and Vivi — and they were separately working on ways to fight the growing threat of payment fraud. But they soon realized that their individual strengths become far greater if they joined forces, so they combined their knowledge to create a formidable defense,

The EMV Chip

Explore with us to know how these three friends revolutionized secure payments!

EMV, short for Europay (Evie), Mastercard (Max), and Visa (Vivi) is a technology that revolutionized how we pay securely. It’s like a shield for our card transactions. Unlike older cards with just a magnetic stripe, EMV cards have a special chip that stores our payment information safely. This chip creates unique codes for each transaction, making it tough for fraudsters to steal your card details. Since its introduction in the 1990s, EMV has become the global standard for secure payments.


Before we dive into the inner workings of EMV, it’s best to understand the rumbling that sets the wheels of innovation in motion!

Why did EMV emerge?

EMV emerged as a response to the vulnerabilities of traditional magnetic stripe cards. It is a plastic card with a magnetic stripe on its back. This stripe contains encoded information, including account details and user identification, which can be read by card readers. When swiped through a reader, the magnetic stripe transfers data to complete transactions. However, magnetic stripe cards have several inherent vulnerabilities that prompted the development of more secure alternatives like EMV chip cards.

The issues with magnetic stripe cards that paved the way for EMV chip cards include:

1. Fraud Vulnerability

  • Criminals exploit skimming devices to pilfer magnetic data, facilitating the creation of counterfeit cards. Magnetic stripes’ vulnerability to skimming and cloning grants unauthorized access to card data, fostering fraudulent transactions.

2. Static Data Storage

  • Data on magnetic stripes is static and unencrypted, making it easier for fraudsters to intercept and clone card information.

3. Limited Authentication

  • Authentication primarily relies on signatures, which are prone to forgery, leading to unauthorized transactions.
  • Magnetic stripe transactions rely solely on card data, lacking the added security of PIN verification or dynamic codes used with chip cards.

4. Global Compatibility Challenges

  • Incompatibility with chip-based systems in some regions hinders international transactions and exposes users to security risks.

5. Regulatory Compliance

  • Evolving regulations require heightened security measures, prompting the adoption of more secure alternatives like EMV chip cards.

6. Financial Impacts

  • The costs associated with fraud, including detection, prevention, and reimbursement, highlight the need for more secure payment solutions. These shortcomings catalyzed the development and adoption of EMV chip cards, offering enhanced security and mitigating the risks associated with magnetic stripe technology.

These limitations made magnetic stripe cards less secure compared to paving the way for a more secure and reliable system, the EMV chip card.


Felt the tremors of magnetic stripe cards!

Let us head to the heart of the matter!

How do EMV Chip Cards Work?

Regular cards with magnetic stripes are like carrying around a note with your card number on it. Anyone who steals that note (or skims the stripe) can potentially use your card!

EMV chip cards are much more secure and here’s how they work:

  • When you use an EMV chip card, instead of swiping, you insert it into a special terminal. The chip inside the card connects with the terminal, and for each transaction, it creates a unique encrypted code. This code is like a secret password, and it’s different every time you make a purchase.
  • This encrypted code, also known as a one-time-use token, subs in for your actual card details. It’s transmitted to the store’s system instead of your real information. This means your data is never directly sent during the transaction, keeping it safe from potential hackers.
  • Additionally, as each transaction generates a new code, it becomes challenging for fraudsters to create fake EMV chip cards. So, not only does EMV technology protect your information, but it also makes it difficult for fraudsters to make counterfeit cards.


EMV cards integrate a miniature computer chip, which serves as the primary conduit for transmitting payment data during transactions, rather than relying solely on the magnetic stripe found on traditional cards.

There are two predominant variants of EMV chip cards:

1. Chip-and-PIN Cards

Renowned for their heightened security measures, chip-and-PIN cards necessitate the creation of a Personal Identification Number (PIN) by the cardholder. At the point of sale, users are prompted to input this confidential PIN to authenticate the transaction, effectively ensuring that only authorized individuals can complete payments.

Internationally prevalent, especially outside the United States, this method offers robust protection by requiring a unique code known solely to the cardholder.

2. Chip-and-Signature Cards

In contrast, chip-and-signature cards mandate the cardholder’s signature as the means of validating transactions. While still more secure than traditional magnetic stripe cards, they rely on the handwritten signature as a form of identity verification.

Predominant within the United States, this approach mirrors the familiar process of signing receipts for credit card transactions, thereby facilitating a smoother transition for consumers accustomed to traditional payment methods.

How Does the EMV Card Reader Work?

A go-to view:

  • The transaction process begins.
  • The cardholder inserts their EMV chip card into the card reader.
  • The card reader establishes communication with the EMV chip embedded in the card.
  • The EMV chip generates a unique encrypted code for the specific transaction.
  • The cardholder provides authentication through a PIN/Signature to verify the transaction.
  • The card reader sends transaction data to the Point of Sale (POS) system.
  • The POS system forwards the transaction data to the card network.
  • The card network contacts the issuer to request transaction approval.
  • The issuer evaluates the transaction request and responds with either approval or rejection.
  • The transaction is concluded based on the response from the issuer.

What makes EMV Chip technology so successful?

Enhanced Security

  • EMV chips offer superior security compared to magnetic stripes. They’re tamper-proof and generate unique codes for each transaction, making them difficult to counterfeit.

Global Interoperability

  • EMV provides a standardized system for chip-based payments, ensuring smooth transactions worldwide.

Liability Shift

  • Rules incentivize both banks and merchants to adopt EMV. Failure to do so can result in financial penalties for fraudulent transactions.

Faster Transactions

  • Contactless EMV with NFC allows for quick and convenient “tap to pay” functionality.

EMV Payment Options

Payment solutions tied to EMV chip technology encompass various forms, each offering unique benefits and functionalities:

1. Contactless EMV cards

These cards allow users to make payments by simply tapping them on a compatible terminal, eliminating the need to insert or swipe. For example, a user can tap their contactless EMV card at a grocery store checkout to complete a transaction swiftly and securely.

2. Mobile EMV technology

With mobile EMV technology, users can store their payment information securely on their smartphones and make payments using mobile wallet apps like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay. For instance, a user can use their smartphone to pay for a coffee at a café by holding it near the NFC reader.

3. Wearable EMV technology

This innovative form of payment allows users to make transactions using wearable devices such as smartwatches or fitness trackers embedded with EMV chip technology. For instance, a user can use their smartwatch to pay for public transportation by tapping it on a card reader.


Glimpsed the core, let’s know the friction!

EMV Chip Cards: Secure, but Vulnerable?

Despite the implementation of EMV chip technology, fraud remains a persistent issue. Recent years have seen an increase in instances of chip card cloning, indicating that EMV cards are not entirely immune to fraudulent activities.

Sophisticated tools enable fraudsters to extract data from EMV chips, such as with the use of card shimmers. These devices allow criminals to obtain crucial information from the chip, facilitating the creation of magnetic stripe replicas. Consequently, perpetrators can exploit these cloned cards at any merchant equipped to handle card-present transactions.


The curtain closes, next time you use your card, remember the backstage magic that makes it happen!

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P.S: What topic do you think we should explore next? Let us know in the comments.



Backspace Tech

Backspace Tech offers Fintech-as-a-Service to automate,simplify, and disrupt the payment industry by handling chargeback requests through a plug-and-play model.