Even as an Oct. 1 deadline approaches to replace Americans' out-of-date credit cards with new cards embedded with computer chips, the vast majority of Americans still have not received their new cards and only a small minority are using the chips at all, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows.
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The poll finds that roughly one in 10 Americans have received the new chip-enabled credit cards. Of those who have received the cards, only one-third say they've actually used the cards as intended in new specialized credit card readers.
In an effort to combat mounting credit card fraud, U.S. banks are making a push to replace the magnetic-stripe credit cards Americans use with new ones that have tiny computer chips embedded in them, which are far more secure.
The older type of cards, long since been phased out in other major countries, have become easy targets for thieves, who have found multiple ways to exploit the security flaws in the decades-old magnetic stripe technology. Even though the U.S. counts for 25 percent of all credit card transactions, half of all credit card fraud happens in America, according to a report by Barclays.
The chip cards, which have been used in Europe and elsewhere for more than a decade, transmit a one-time code when they're inserted into a card-reading device to make a purchase. Even if the code is stolen, thieves can't use it to make other purchases.
The new chip cards can't prevent a thief using a person's stolen credit card information to make fraudulent purchases online, however.
The new poll shows Americans are more likely to say they're very concerned about their personal information being secure when making purchases online (45 percent) than in stores (38 percent).
In 2012, Visa, MasterCard and other payment processors set a soft deadline of Oct. 1, 2015 for merchants to have their equipment changed to accept the new cards, but industry representatives estimate that only half of merchants will be ready in time. Banks say it will take well into 2016 to replace all Americans' credit and debit cards.
Digging into the numbers, the poll finds 41 percent of Americans have received a new credit or debit card in the past few months. But only 30 percent of those who have received new cards, or 13 percent of all Americans, have received a new card with a chip embedded on the front of it. Of those who have received the card, 35 percent say they've actually used them as intended.
The new chip-enabled cards also come with magnetic stripes, and many users are still swiping them just like they always have. The new cards require users to insert their card into an ATM-like slot in a card reader for several seconds.
Briana Thompson, a college student in Northwest Ohio, said she received her new card around Christmas.
"I remember going 'oh, wow, the card looks cool,'" Thompson said. "But I haven't had a chance to use the chip. I haven't encountered a merchant who accepts them."
The poll shows that Americans, once given the cards, are figuring out how to use them. Among those who do have a new card, 70 percent say they know how to use it. But just a quarter of Americans, including a little over a third of those who have received the new cards, say they understand very or extremely well why they're being sent the cards in the first place.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,004 adults was conducted online July 9 to July 13, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.