What is EMV Chip Card Technology?

EMV Definition

"EMV® is a global standard for credit and debit payment cards based on chip card technology" taking its name from the card schemes Europay, MasterCard, and Visa - the original card schemes that developed it. The standard covers the processing of credit and debit card payments using a card that contains a microprocessor chip.

Chip and PIN Definition

These transactions are often referred to as "Chip and PIN" because PIN entry is required to verify the customer is the genuine cardholder. This is a simplification since the EMV specifications include other cardholder verification methods as well.

EMV vs. Magnetic Stripe Transactions

Unlike magnetic stripe transactions, where typically only the card's track 2 data containing the card number and expiry date is processed, every chip card transaction contain dozens of pieces of information to be exchanged between the card, the terminal and the acquiring bank or processors host.

This requires the terminal to perform many stages of complex processing, including cryptographic authentication, to successfully complete a transaction. This means that adding support for EMV to existing payment applications can be a daunting task. For more information on the main processing steps required in an EMV transaction, please review this diagram showing a typical EMV Transaction Flow.

EMV in the USA

If you are looking to migrate to EMV in the USA, please take a look at our more detailed EMV Page dedicated to U.S. EMV Migration.

EMV in Numbers

EMVCo published its latest EMV deployment figures in May 2015. In 2014, 32% of all chip card-present transactions - both contact and contactless - used EMV chip technology, this is up by 29% compared to 2013. There are now over 3.4 billion EMV payment cards in circulation, which is an increase of 43% on 2013. 

In the United States, at the end of 2014, only 0.12% of transactions were EMV chip-based, however this is expected to rapidly increase as the U.S. undergoes EMV Migration later this year.

EMV Testing

Before an EMV capable solution can be deployed, there are many EMVCo mandated tests that need to be passed to validate that an EMV implementation conforms to the EMV standard.  As the EMV specifications evolve and are regularly updated this can become a major job in itself - another reason why many businesses who require an EMV "Chip & PIN" or "Chip & Signature" solution opt to license a purpose built off the shelf EMV Software Kernel rather than develop their own in house.

EMV Glossary

To understand more about some of the terminology used in EMV we've compiled a useful Glossary of Terms.

About EMVCo

EMVCo is jointly owned by American Express, Discover, JCB, MasterCard, UnionPay and Visa. It manages, maintains and enhances the EMV Specifications to ensure global interoperability of chip cards with acceptance devices such as point of sale terminals and ATMs.

All our EMV Kernels are EMVCo compliant and we are proud to have achieved a 100% first time pass rate.