New campaign promotes chip & signature cardsMany people unaware of Pin-free card option

21 July 2012

credit cards

A campaign was launched this week by the Payments Council to raise awareness of chip and signature debit and credit cards among both consumers and the industry.

How do chip and signature cards work?

The Payments Council's consumer education campaign,, carried out research that highlighted that many retailers weren't aware of how the cards worked and a majority of people (63%) who struggle with chip and Pin don't know that an alternative exists.

Chip and signature cards are identical to chip and Pin cards, but once inserted into a card terminal the customer is prompted to use their signature, rather than enter a Pin, to authorise the payment. All banks and building societies are required to offer these cards and all retailers are obliged to accept them.

Plastic cards with a chip and signature facility are designed for people who cannot use chip and Pin cards due to memory problems, visual impairment or lack of mobility. With an estimated 10.9 million disabled people in the UK and an aging population, the need for chip and signature cards as a alternative will undoubtedly increase. 

Which? research into chip and signature cards

The research from the Payments Council echoed a Which? investigation from earlier this year. Our researchers made 10 calls to each of the 12 largest banks in the UK and Nationwide BS.

Posing as a customer who had recently suffered a mild stroke and was unable to key the required digits into a Pin terminal, they asked if the banks offered an alternative to a chip and Pin debit card.

Very few of the banks handled our calls in the way that we would have expected. Many gave incorrect information about the right to be issued with a chip and signature card, while others had poorly trained staff who were unable to answer our questions. 

While the Co-operative Bank managed to achieve a perfect record, giving the appropriate advice in each of the 10 calls made, Bank of Scotland, Santander, RBS and NatWest only passed our test in two or less of the 10 calls we made.

Raising awareness of chip and signature

Adrian Kamellard, chief executive of the Payments Council, said: 'This card is not necessarily the solution for all people finding chip and PIN payments difficult, but we’re keen to make sure that people know of chip and signature, so that they can consider it as an alternative if they feel it might make things easier for them, a member of their family or someone they care for.'

Which? analyst Paul Davies added: 'It's great that the Payments Council is making a concerted effort to raise awareness of the availability of chip and signature cards. Our research highlighted that banks are sometimes seemingly reluctant to inform people who can't use chip and Pin cards that there is a viable alternative.'

More on this...

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