Chip & Pin


Chip and PIN is the new, more secure way to pay with your debit and credit card. Instead of signing you must now enter a secret four-digit PIN. Until all cards in Malta are chip and PIN, you would be able to pay for your goods or services either by signing to confirm payment (the process we are accustomed to) or entering the PIN at the trader’s terminal.

Some banks may only allow you to confirm payment by PIN, if your card is “chip & pin” enabled.

Your card will have a "smart" chip. The chip itself is buried inside the card but what you can see is the silver or gold coloured square on the front left-hand side of the card. There will be occasions when the person accepting your card for payment, whether in Malta or abroad will not be able to process a PIN transaction and you will be required to sign instead. Your card will therefore retain its magnetic stripe and signature strip on the back. You might also be requested to present an identity card or passport to identify yourself to the vendor.

You are likely to come into contact with a variety of PIN pads wherever you pay by plastic. A PIN pad is a small machine, very similar to a calculator. Once the card is inserted in a PIN pad, you need to input your personal identification number secretly for the transaction to go through. If you enter the PIN correctly, the system will confirm the transaction. You will be given a receipt. That’s all. No signature will be required.

Some stores will have PIN pads attached to the cash register via a wire and you will hand your card to the member of staff to be read, whilst other stores will have PIN pads which contain integrated card readers, and you will put your card into the card reader yourself.

Many PIN pads are designed to be picked up from their holders, to make it easier and more secure for you to enter your PIN. You may also come across PIN pads which have been built into the shop counter and in restaurants and bars the PIN pads are likely to be wireless so that you can pay whilst sitting at the table. Whatever the case staff should always be able to help you through the process and answer any queries.

You will need to enter the same PIN regardless of the design.

Please remember that no one except you knows your PIN, and you should never disclose your PIN to anyone, including retail or bank staff. If you have handed over your card to a member of staff, try to remain aware of what is happening to your card. Ask the member of staff to explain the process they are carrying out and contact your bank if you are at all concerned.

Where the retailer has not upgraded to chip and PIN technology, you will be asked to follow the current card payment process using your signature to confirm the transaction.

Your bank will advise you whether you need to sign on the card’s reverse. Signing the card on the reverse may still necessary, as the signature will continue to be used for verification in certain situations (e.g. travelling abroad to a country where chip and PIN is not used or where the retailer has not upgraded to chip and PIN).

You can change your PIN to a four-digit number that is easier to remember at a cash point or by calling your bank but do make sure that it is a number that nobody else can guess.

There is no change in liability for the cardholders who remain protected in the same way as they are today. And the other good news is that chip and PIN has already made major reductions in two of the most common types of card fraud - lost and stolen and counterfeit.

There are some important exceptions where signature will always be accepted. These are for:

  • cardholders who have old style cards and are waiting for their new chip and PIN cards;
  • overseas cardholders that have cards that have not been upgraded to chip and PIN
  • or all cardholders in shops which have not upgraded to chip and PIN equipment

Hints and tips regarding your PIN

A bank may allow you to change your PIN at your ATM. But if you still need some help, here are some tried and tested means of remembering your four-digit PIN:

Rather than learn a PIN digit by digit, learn the pattern that you need to trace on the keypad with your fingers. 

  • To remember a new PIN, you could use an anniversary or friend’s birthday. Use a combination of day and month, or month and year, whichever is easiest to remember – but don’t use numbers that are easily associated with you, like your own date of birth.
  • Go into a room on your own and say your PIN aloud several times: just hearing your own voice often helps to deepen the imprint on your memory.
  • Similarly, write your PIN down ten or twenty times (make sure that you thoroughly scribble over the numbers or shred the paper before putting it in the bin!)
  • Some people find it helps to break a four-digit PIN down into two lots of two numbers, for example 54 and 68.
    Shopping online – a third layer of security.

Some card issuers are providing their customers with a more secure environment in which online payments are conducted. The system entails cardholders conducting purchases with participating merchants that are subscribed to accept such scale of purchase transactions.

The cardholder provides the card issuing bank with a valid mobile number. When effecting purchases online, the cardholder will be requested to authorise the transaction by means of a unique passcode that will be sent to the cardholder on the mobile number that has been registered at the bank. When the passcode is correctly entered, the cardholder will instantly be confirming that he/she is the authorised cardholder and the purchase will then be completed.

If an incorrect passcode is entered, the purchase will not be completed. This service is meant to provide more confidence to those who wish to conduct their shopping online.

Click here for other helpful tips to help you shield your money from fraud.

Last updated: Sep 07, 2016