In recent years, credit card issuers have converted most of their cards to be smart chip-enabled — instead of using the magnetic strip — because it's a more secure way of making a transaction. But does the chip mean you can track the card if it gets lost? In this article, we'll answer that question, cover what credit card chips do and also what to do if you suspect your card is lost or stolen.
Can credit card chips be tracked?
The smart chip is not a locator system, so the physical location of a credit or debit card cannot be tracked. Also known as an EMV chip, this smart chip embedded on your card creates dynamic data for every transaction, which makes it nearly impossible for criminals to steal or clone your information. The chip is an extra measure to protect your account, but it is not a trackable feature of a credit card.
Can you track the location of a credit card?
For your own privacy, there is no way to track the physical location of your credit card. If you're trying to find a lost card, you could examine the payment history of the card account to see the locations of the fraudulent purchases and narrow it down to a specific geography, but the safest step to take in this situation is to contact your credit card issuer.
Can debit card chips be tracked?
Debit card chips cannot be tracked either. They use the same EMV technology as credit cards and therefore no tracking system is embedded into the card.
What is an EMV?
Smart chips and EMVs are the same thing. EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa, but is now supported by most companies like Discover, American Express and UnionPay. This chip is embedded into the front of your credit card and it's what you insert into a store's point-of- sale machine or tap-to-pay to complete a transaction.
The primary benefit of this chip is to help combat fraud. The chips can only be authenticated by special readers. This makes them more secure than magnetic stripes because they create a new transaction number every time you use it. This is called a “cryptogram". These unique numbers can only be used once and can't be traced back to your account, nor can it track your physical card.
What do I do if I lose my credit card?
It's an unsettling feeling when you realize you can't find your credit card. Your credit card issuer is one of the first places you should turn if you discover it's missing. When you report your card as lost or stolen, the card issuer will immediately freeze your account and arrange for a new card to be sent to you. Most times, you'll receive a replacement in 3-5 business days, or sooner if you choose Priority mail.
- Contact your card issuer to speak to a representative. Find your issuer's phone number from your credit card statements and report your lost card. You may also request a replacement credit card during that communication.
- Consider locking the card. This step ensures that your credit card won't be usable if someone finds it but can be unlocked if you do find it.
- Confirm any recent charges. The representative is likely to read through your recent charges to identify which are legitimate.
It's important to note that replacing a credit card won't affect your credit score. Even if you get a new card with a new 16-digit number, the card account and the age of that account remain the same for the purpose of credit reporting.
Smart chips on credit and debit cards cannot be physically tracked. Their security features help protect your account information, but they do not help you locate a card if it gets lost or stolen.
When it comes to protecting your account information, whenever possible, use your EMV chip card for purchases to ensure the transaction is as secure as possible. Always report when a card is lost or stolen. It is likely much easier to have your credit card issuer replace your card instead of trying to track it down yourself. If you'd like to monitor your identity as well as your credit score, you can do this for free with Chase Credit Journey®.