August 1 marks the changeover from signatures to PINs for credit cards.

August 1 marks the changeover from signatures to PINs for credit cards.

From August 1 you will no longer be able to sign for purchases made by credit card, and will have to use a PIN number instead. But what if you’ve forgotten to get a PIN number?

Don’t panic yet, but do contact your bank and make sure you have alternative payment methods to signing for a credit card. That’s the message from PINwise, the body responsible for promoting the changeover.

“People who are caught out by the changeover can opt to use ‘tap and go’ if they limit their spend to $100. Otherwise they’ll need another card like an eftpos card, or cash,” campaign spokesperson Nicole Pedersen-Mckinnon said.

There will be a changeover period in stores, but it will be fast, and it is impossible to say which stores will transition to the new technology and when, Ms Pedersen-McKinnon said, so it is best to be prepared.

“All customers will need to know their PIN to make a purchase, so those who haven’t already switched should contact their card provider for further information. All customers also have the ability to change their issued PIN to something more memorable by going online,” HSBC Australia’s head of cards Andrew Chalcroft said.

“PIN offers customers a safer, more secure way to shop, as there is less risk of fraud by using a PIN, rather than a signature,” he said

NAB said customers who do not already have pin-ready cards should contact the bank.

“NAB has been communicating with all its cards customers since September 2013 to help them prepare for the change to PIN and we encourage any customers who have not already got a PIN for their credit or debit cards to do so today. They can visit a NAB store or call 13 37 68 to talk to a banker and organise their PIN,” a spokesperson said.

One prepared company is Woolworths. While advising customers to make sure they are prepared, the retailer will also allow for a handover period.

“Customers will still be able to sign for their purchases for the next few weeks as the change to PIN is implemented,” she said. “Any customers who are unsure if they need a PIN for their credit card should contact the card issuer,” a company spokesperson said.

“Should a customer find themselves at a checkout on 1 August without a PIN, they can still use contactless payments for purchases under $100 and in most cases will still be able to sign, but this will soon change. The best way to ensure you don’t get caught out is to get a PIN.”

“If you haven’t got it sorted yet, consumers should contact their banks immediately and hope the bank can issue a PIN instantly, either online or in a branch.” Ms Pedersen-McKinnon said.

“If it has to be posted, they probably will have to have a fall back plan to pay,” she said.

Why the change?

The move from signature to PIN has been an industry wise initiative, including banks, retailers, credit union and card issuers, led by PINwise, a body set up specifically to drive the changeover.

The decision has been made primarily to reduce the levels of credit and debit card fraud, which PIN wise estimates to be around $262 million per year.

“The switch to ‘Chip & PIN’ in other markets, such as the UK, Canada and many European countries, has led to a significant reduction in card present fraud,” a statement from PINwise said.

The move has been hastened by the high number of consumers using contactless, or ‘paywave’ technology. It is estimated that 40 per cent of face-to-face card transactions are with paypass-style cards.

The scheme, which had to be approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, means all terminals across Australia will be upgraded over the next two months as signature purchase is no longer available. It will not affect contactless transactions or overseas cards.