8

A while ago, I got a credit card with a magnetic stripe and a chip that looks like this:
Old chip

A couple months ago, I noticed that every time I tried to use the card, I would get something like "CHIP MALFUNCTION" and have to try it three times, always getting the same error before a terminal would allow me to to swipe the card's magnetic strip. When it kept happening consistently, I determined there must be something wrong with the chip, started using alternative forms of payment on occasions when I would otherwise have used that card, and requested a replacement from the issuer, who sent one at no currency-cost to me. The new card's chip looks like this:
enter image description here

Curious about what else might be different between the two cards, I compared them closely. I noticed that the new one dropped the text "Not valid without authorized signature" near the signature field. I also noticed the following tiny text in a corner of the old card. The font looks to be a bit under half the size of the already-small font used for printing the customer service phone number.
"Exp 05/18"
In that place, the new one says "Exp 10/18" though both of them had the same expiration date printed as the main expiration date on the card, which is not until well after 10/18. I also heard secondhand other people having the same experience, where the chip just stops working. In my case, the time when it stopped working corresponded with this expiration date in small print (and I don't know for the others).

Does this small-print expiration date reflect the expiration of the chip? If so, why do the card chips expire so much earlier than the expiration dates printed on the card? Alternatively, was there a technology change that required the new style of chip design?

In either of those cases, why do card issuers not automatically send replacements (when they can see the cards are in regular use)?

  • None of my cards include a secondary expiration date... – Ron Beyer Jul 19 '18 at 3:54
  • Seems unlikely. Of the seven chipped cards in my wallet, only four of them have any secondary date on them and three of those coincide with when they were issued to me. Only one of mine that says "exp" by the second date - a Citi Double Cash card that looks much like your photos above. I would guess the cards are ordered in bulk and that is the last date that they'll issue card from that batch before destroying whatever is left and ordering another batch... but it's just a hunch, I have nothing to back it up. Haven't used the card in a POS in years so I don't know if the chip is good/bad. – CactusCake Jul 19 '18 at 13:36
  • @WBT - Does your card double as a membership card? Could it be your membership expiration? – Bobson Jul 19 '18 at 19:32
  • @Bobson Good guess, but no! (Unless one of the card benefits is "membership" in some concierge service or rewards program, but that should be tied to the account, and I'm not aware of any of those card benefits expiring or having expired). – WBT Jul 19 '18 at 20:38
8

No, the data on the chip should match that of the magnetic stripe and what's directly printed on the card. Likewise, there's not really a difference between the two chips - they're laid out a bit differently, but they both have the standard 6 connection points. (Some chips have 8, but the extra two are officially Reserved for Future Use, so are usually left out for price reasons.)

It's in the bank's interest for you to use the chip as much as possible - it's much harder to steal the credit card number from a chip transaction than from a swipe, and thus they're less likely to have to eat the cost of fraudulent transactions.

I'm guessing that your chip just wore out. You can see in your photo how scratched it is, especially on the center left area. If any of the contact points don’t connect to the terminal, the chip just isn’t going to work. As you realized, the best solution is just to call your bank and order another one.


For what it's worth, I have a credit card that has "Exp 07/18" in tiny print in the upper right corner of the back, which is different than the "06/20" printed on the front. Judging from the other mysterious text above the swipe strip, I'm guessing this is some internal reference. If my chip suddenly stops working next month, I'll come back and update this post.

  • My card has "Exp 05/17" in tiny print and is still working fine in July 2018. – BrenBarn Jul 19 '18 at 19:23
  • @BrenBarn - That's what I would expect. I wonder what they mean? – Bobson Jul 19 '18 at 19:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.