Visa issuers have put 3.5 million chip-based smart cards in the hands of U.S. consumers since the card brand announced its EMV-card migration roadmap in August of 2011, a Visa executive says.

"With each new card, the U.S. payments ecosystem gets one step closer to achieving the improved security that EMV technology affords to consumers, merchants and issuers," Stephanie Ericksen, Visa's head of authentication product integration, states in a May 28 blog post.

The chip in an EMV card generates a one-time code when inserted in an EMV terminal that renders any stolen payment information useless for counterfeiting, Ericksen says.

"The opportunity that chip presents goes beyond security, and will enable new and emerging forms of electronic payment, such as NFC-based mobile payments," Ericksen says.

As part of its migration plan, Visa has recommended that merchants upgrading to EMV-enabled terminals also add Near Field Communication capabilities for payments initiated through certain smartphones.

While ubiquity for EMV cards in the U.S. may be a few years away, Visa is pleased with the early progress and will continue to work with shareholders in the payments industry to complete the migration, Ericksen says.

It's a good move by Visa's issuing banks to get EMV cards out, especially in the hands of consumers who travel around the world and will need chip-based cards to initiate transactions, says Randy Vanderhoof, acting director of the EMV Migration Forum and president of the Smart Card Alliance.

Banks are issuing EMV cards "in small numbers to targeted accounts" because they want to show high-profile customers that they are keeping up with technology, Vanderhoof says. "Those customers won't be jumping to another bank to look for the latest features," he adds.

It also helps issuing banks to get EMV cards in consumers' hands prior to a full-scale EMV rollout when more terminals are ready to accept the cards, Vanderhoof says.

Banks want to test internal mechanisms for EMV cards, and internal support services to monitor what kinds of questions people have about the cards, Vanderhoof says.

"There may be 100 different ways to explain to a customer what the chip is, and you don't want to pick an explanation that no one can understand," Vanderhoof says. "So, there is a lot of experimenting going on in customer service."

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