UNFCU First in U.S. to Embrace “Smart” Credit Cards

The United Nations Federal Credit Union heeds jet-setting members’ needs in adopting smartcard technology.



The United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) unveiled plans last week to issue credit cards with smartcard technology, Bloomberg reports.  UNFCU will be the first financial institution in the United States to offer cards that adhere to the Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV) smartcard standard, though EMV cards have been in use around the world for several years.

UNFCU will issue roughly 5,000 new Platinum Visa EMV cards to its most high-value customers.

EMV cards use an embedded microprocessor instead of a magnetic stripe to store cardholder data and other information needed for a transaction, says Bloomberg. Cardholders are often required to enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for security purposes.

Although EMV cards are safer than cards with magnetic stripes, financial institutions in the United States have been reluctant to adopt the technology because of the anticipated cost of merging them into our current payment system.  When weighing the cost of integration, however, credit unions would do well to consider the convenience EMV cards offer their members, in addition to the added security.

UNFCU’s plans to implement smartcard technology is a direct response to needs expressed by its members, says Merrill Halpern, card services manager at the credit union. Because magnetic stripe cards are accepted less and less across Europe and several other countries, U.S. residents feel “disadvantaged when traveling abroad by not having a card that [can] be readily accepted.”

The new cards, which also support magnetic stripe technology, are compatible with standard payment terminals in the United States.


May 20, 2010


  • I agree. This card technology is not appropriate for all credit unions.
  • Unfortunately these cards will not be popular in the U.S. until the majority of merchants upgrade thier card terminals. Right now there is no incentive for merchants to purchase the more expensive smartcard readers.