May 11, 2018 / 06:18

Many banks yet to shift to ATM chip cards

Most ATM domestic card holders still have to wait until 2020 to be able to use chip cards instead of magnetic stripe cards as currently despite growing card information theft.

According to State Bank of Vietnam (SBV)’s Payment Department, some 90 percent of Vietnam’s 77 million bank cards are using magnetic-stripe technology, which is easy to forge, and lags behind the global trend of chip cards.
TPBank has so far succeeded in issuing chip cards
TPBank has so far succeeded in issuing chip cards
Magnetic stripe cards, or swipe cards, store data on a band of magnetic material that is read by swiping past a magnetic reading head. Meanwhile, chip cards store data on integrated circuits protected by complex cryptographic algorithms, providing better security against fraud compared to one-time encryption technology as in the case of magnetic stripe cards.
International card-issuing organizations have recommended Vietnamese banks to use chip cards meeting EMV standards (regulated by Europay, MasterCard and Visa) to increase safety amid growing card information theft.
Security experts have also warned that Vietnam’s delayed transition to chip technology can put the country at risk of becoming a ‘haven’ for card criminals from all over the world, as it is among the few countries where the use of magnetic swipe cards are still dominant. 
In 2016, the SBV also issued a plan that required local commercial banks to make the switch from magnetic stripe cards to chip cards no later than December 31, 2020, in an aim to address concerns over users’ safety and service quality.
Deputy general director of Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) Pham Anh Tuan said that both the SBV and the National Payment Corporation of Vietnam had been working to construct a set of domestic standards for chip cards.
He hoped that based on a common standard, card synchronization would take less time and require less investment or interbank transaction fees. This would also minimize money and data theft at ATM’s in the context of rising high-tech crime.
However, many local banks are still issuing magnetic strip cards as domestic payment cards for their clients instead of shifting to chip cards mainly due to concerns over high investment costs.
According to local lenders, issuing a chip card can cost them some US$1.5-2.5. It means that they will have to spend between $105-175 million for the transition, not to mention the additional costs of upgrading their ATM machines and core banking systems to adapt to the change.
Admitting the transition could be a financial burden for banks with a large number of issued cards, but the Vietnam Bank Card Association (VBCA) said that the transition to a global, sophisticated card security system is inevitable, despite current difficulties.
Some banks such as Vietcombank, Vietinbank and TPBank have so far successfully issued chip-implemented debit cards after participating in the National Payment Corporation of Vietnam’s trial issuance period of EVM cards, before mass implementation.
Currently, many Vietnamese banks are having trouble dealing with card data theft and so-called skimming at ATMs. The latest case was related to 400 Agribank accounts being stolen money last month.
The Ministry of Public Security’s C50 Division has arrested dozens of suspects on charges of criminal theft and identity theft in ATM and bank card-related crimes between 2015 and 2017, with damages ranging from hundreds to billions of VND.
C50 also stated that most thieves who steal money by using skimming devices are of foreign nationalities, including China, Malaysia, Bulgaria, the UK and the Netherlands. They commonly target large cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Haiphong.