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Chip & PIN vs. Chip & Signature for EMV Credit Cards

Chip & PIN vs. Chip & Signature for EMV Credit Cards

As a merchant in the retail or restaurant industry, you have most likely seen and accepted a number of EMV chip card transactions within the past year. Consumers and business owners are growing more accustomed to the usage of chip cards, yet there are still some unanswered questions that are frequently brought up regarding the different processing methods.

What is Chip & PIN? Chip & Signature? What are their Benefits?

EMV credit cards are processed through either “Chip & PIN” or “Chip & Signature”. The true method of processing an EMV transaction is “Chip & PIN” (as it is used in most other countries), but as of now “Chip & Signature” is more common in the United States, which is still in the infant stages of EMV implementation. Both “Chip & PIN” and “Chip & Signature” meet the EMV compliance mandate, offer EMV fraud protection, and can be processed by most EMV enabled terminals. Here are the differences of each:

Chip and PIN

Chip and Signature

Way it's Processed

EMV card is inserted (dipped) into the EMV slot and a PIN is required for verification.

EMV card is inserted (dipped) into the EMV slot and verified, and a signature from the cardholder is required.


Requiring a PIN results in higher security. In the case of lost or stolen cards, the cards cannot be used without a correct PIN.

Not requiring the cardholder to remember and enter a PIN makes the transaction process simpler. The cardholder provides a signature just like a swiped transaction.

How do I know if a card should be processed by Chip & PIN or Chip & Signature?

The card issuer determines whether a card is processed by “Chip & PIN” or “Chip & Signature”. After your credit card terminal reads the card, it will differentiate the processing method and give a prompt for either PIN or signature.


1. Insert chip card

Customer inserts chip
end of the card face up.

Step 1. Insert chip card
2. Follow the prompts
  • Chip & Pin –
    Cardholder is prompted to enter PIN for verification.
  • Chip & Signature –
    Cardholder will be
    asked for a signature.
Step 2. Follow the prompts
3. Remove chip card

Customer removes
card when transaction
is completed.

Step 3. Remove chip card

What should I do when I run a Chip & PIN credit card but the cardholder does not know the PIN?

This is a common occurrence, since some card issuers released their cards as “Chip & Signature” first, and then later turned on the “Chip & PIN” function. In these cases the issuer should have mailed out temporary PINs to the cardholders, which are often overlooked. Please ask the cardholder to contact his or her issuer for assistance in setting up the PIN. The process for setting up the PIN, and the amount of time it will take varies from issuer to issuer. If you prefer, you may ask the cardholder if they wish to pay using another method. Some card issuers will allow the cardholder to request to remove the PIN functionality; however, this also varies from issuer to issuer.

For more information on EMV, please visit