Even with the same card issuer (for example, I have two Discover credit cards of the same "model" for the same account), the chip always has a different outline. What's the reason for this?


1 Answer 1


Basically, the spec doesn't care. When you insert your card into a reader, there are six pins that will make contact, three along each edge. The area in the middle isn't really used, but should be connected to the upper-right pad (ground). As long as those six pins make contact, there's plenty of room for creativity. If your phone gives you easy access to the SIM card, you can pop it out, and see what the contact pins look like. (Fun fact: SIM cards and chip-and-pin chips use the same technology.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_card has a pinout, under "A smart-card pinout" on the right. Note that there are both 8-pin and 6-pin versions. The 8-pin version has 2 extra connectors for USB interfacing, which isn't usually needed, and so can be skipped.

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    Yes. The spec does care but only as far as reliable connectivity with all the applicable tolerances is concerned. For example, the card doesn't fit the slot with some micrometers precision, so the contacts must be designed such that they couple under all reasonable conditions.
    – sharptooth
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 8:37
  • The spec doesn't care, but practical concerns in the real world mean that the designs are constantly under refinement. Between shimming and FUN attacks there has been a lot of recent attention on the physical design of the chip as a security measure.
    – dwizum
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 14:13

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