A card with a chip

One of the reasons we were in such a hurry to get set up with our personnummers was our need to open a bank account. They don’t really do paper checks here in Sweden so it is not easy to collect your salary if they cannot deposit the funds electronically. Furthermore, as I already mentioned, folks rarely use cash here. Instead they pay with their debit cards. However, those debits cards have a microchip and some establishments are not equipped to deal with cards that do not have chips and for which the shopper does not have a pin code. Sometimes you have to pay extra because you need to use a service clerk instead of making the purchase at a machine.

Given all the build-up to our acquisition of a card with a chip (Visa electron, by the way), I had fantasized that such a card would be quite amazing – basically the credit card equivalent of the smart phone or maybe those enchanted knuts that Dumbledore’s army used to communicate. Sure, it would look like other cards but it would access my twitter feed and feel warm when I was at risk of overdrawing or when it was time to work on defensive spells.

Now a couple of weeks into my visa electron, and it doesn’t seem such a big deal. Sure, it is kind of nice that at the restaurant they bring the credit card machine to the table when it is time to pay but couldn’t we get those in the states? I guess it is nice that I don’t have to sign a receipt at the register because I’ve entered my code instead but, quite frankly, you don’t always have to sign in the U.S. and you rarely have to show ID.

I think the primary benefit of the card is the way it interfaces with online banking (which is how it is done for the most part). I have a handy little electronic encoder/decoder contraption that allows me to use the banks online interface to login to my account and, most importantly, transfer funds. This is how we pay for daycare, our every-other-week ekobox, dance and violin lessons, etc.

But, in my experience with a card with a chip, I am wondering why the U.S. does not have it and why Sweden does. Is it a difference without a distinction?

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