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Standard features of payment cards

  • Card Design: Whilst the industry sets technical standards – like flexibility, flammability, toxicity (some people are allergic to some plastics) - the actual design is up to your card issuer. It can be as straightforward or unusual as they like.
  • Chip: The chip (or microchip) embedded into a debit or credit card provides highly secure processing capabilities to carry out the card transaction. These include verifying that the correct PIN has been used. In addition to holding the same personal data as that on the magnetic stripe (i.e. cardholder name, card number and expiry date), the chip provides additional security features to safeguard against counterfeiting. The four digits of your PIN (personal identification number) are not held as a set of numbers on the chip.
  • Card Number: Generally 16 digits (but can be up to 19 on certain cards) – this identifies your account, with the first six digits comprising what is known as the BIN (Bank Identification number) and this identifies your card issuer and the card scheme.
  • Card Scheme Logo: This tells you which card scheme will be responsible for clearing payments and, where the symbol is displayed, which retailers will accept your card.
  • Hologram: An additional security feature to identify that the card is genuine.
  • Expiry Date: Along with the card number the card’s expiry date is essential to process a card payment.
  • Your Name: The cardholder’s name is displayed at the bottom of the card.
  • Magnetic Stripe: The magnetic stripe holds some of the same information as the chip. As practically all UK cards have a chip on them, the magnetic stripe now holds a small flag to specify that the card has a chip on it to assist in fraud prevention. The magnetic stripe is remaining on cards so that you can still use your card abroad in countries that have yet to implement Chip & PIN.
  • Card Security Code (CSC): This three digit number on the signature strip gives the retailer another way to check that you actually have the physical card in your possession when you use your card to buy something on the phone or internet. (If you hold an American Express card, this will be four digits on the front of your card.)
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