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Cedric Pariente - Racine Alpha

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EMV and Singapore Slings

06 July 2009  |  4313 views  |  7

As a french citizen, I was born Chip and Pin capable!!!

Actually I have not known any other system until I went out of France. Now I'm running my own company and I'm travelling more often. I started to be aware that EMV Debit cards (95% of cards in France) were not the only existing option. There are Credit cards, Prepaid cards, some are Chip & Pin, Some are Magnetic Stripe & Signature...

With my EMV Debit card, I've never been bothered anywhere in the world. Never... until now.

This is my first time in Singapore and I happened to travel with a business associate of mine who has also an EMV Debit card, but due to a strong magnet in his wallet, the Mag Stripe has been zapped, so only the chip is working => Pure EMV card, Chip only.

Not a problem, we thought. Any EMV capable device would handle it just fine.

We have tried more than 20 different ATMs, more than 20 different stores and restaurants, none accepted it.

Until we met with this local bank who told us there is NO EMV ATM in Singapore!!!

That ended our efforts to find an ATM EMV capable machine in the city, but we decided to have a look on the internet cuz I was convinced that Singapore was EMV capable. And we found this:


It is supposed to have been implemented (or in progress) since 2004.

I'm not accusing the bank that released the news of course, I'm just saying that the migration process is taking more than expected...

Another funny thing I've seen for the first time here is that they are so not used to processing Chip & Pin that they actually ask me for Chip & Pin & Signature all the time. Sometimes not only do the merchants read the chip, they also swipe the magnetic stripe.

In my friend's case, we thought he could pay with his card with these merchants. But NO. They had to swipe the magnetic stripe first and then insert the card to read the chip. Since the magnetic stripe was zapped, my friend is truly stranded. He can't even go to LongBar (Raffles Hotel) to try the SINGAPORE SLING. And I now have a siamese twin as my Mag Stripe is the only one to work...


Comments: (8)

Adam Nybäck - Anyro - Stockholm | 07 July, 2009, 20:24

I also had my magstripe zapped and since then I cannot withdraw cash from ATMs in Thailand and Sweden, although the chip is working fine for payments and cashback in stores. I'm not sure, but I believe these ATMs do use the chip, but only after verifying that the magstripe is ok. D'oh!

Dean Procter - Transinteract - Sydney | 07 July, 2009, 21:55

I dare say your mobile coverage was fine though? One certainly can't accuse the Singaporeans of being retarded when it comes to embracing the 21st century technology.  Perhaps EMV is not considered a good investment in the fututre. Smart those Singaporeans, but too smart for 'smart' cards eh?

Looking forward to a future without anything marketed as 'smart', and without cards, PINS, passwords, usernames, id theft, the list goes on. But not cards. Hey that would be really smart wouldn't it?

Cedric Pariente - Racine Alpha - Paris | 08 July, 2009, 04:09

Hi Adam,

You are definitely right, they do check the Mag Stripe before using the PIN in ATMs. Same "smart idea" with the merchants.

At the beginning I thought it was a trick from my friend to force me to pay for the restaurant during our whole stay, but even with my card which is both Chip & Mag Stripe OK, they do swipe before inserting it, there is a check of the Mag Stripe before being able to read the Chip.

Jonathan Rosenne - QSM Programming Ltd. - Tel Aviv | 13 July, 2009, 19:30

Most ATMs need the magnetic stripe to open the shutter and to indicate the presence of the chip. Once the ATM gets the card inside, if the magnetic stripe indicates a chip, the ATM uses the chip.

Colin Lee - Provenco - Auckland | 13 July, 2009, 21:29

The need to read the magnetic stripe is in case the chip cannot be read and the transaction may go to "fallback" mode and use the magnetic stripe information.  Does make one wonder why have the chip in the first place as a chip is easy to "disable".


A Finextra member | 14 July, 2009, 08:44


EMV-compliant ATMs in Europe will accept and process an EMV card even if its mag-stripe is non-readable.

The problem here is that a cardholder may not know that his cards' mag-stripes are non-readable, because he is able to use them in EMV countries, then get a bad surprise when he tries to use them in non-EMV countries. 

If what Jonathan said is true "Most ATMs need the magnetic stripe to open the shutter and to indicate the presence of the chip", then this contradicts EMV (chip first, if chip not available or non-working, then fallback to mag-stripe). But I suspect ATMs that need the magnetic stripe to open the shutter, ... - are not EMV-compliant.


Jonathan Rosenne - QSM Programming Ltd. - Tel Aviv | 15 July, 2009, 06:08

EMV does not say the card should not have a magnetic stripe. On the contrary, it supports a gradual transition.

Sensing the magnetic stripe to open the shutter does not mean actually using it for the transaction.

Fallback is up to the banks, and most do not allow it, especially for ATMs.

Chip only cards may be valid nationally, but for international use a valid magnetic stripe is specified and often needed.

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Cedric Pariente

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Stanford Certified Project Manager

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Racine Alpha

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