"Is it a chip?"

This is one of the stupidest problems I’ve had in the grand scheme of things but it makes me anxious. Do I swipe the credit card or do I insert it?!

It is so inconsistent from store to store and frankly, a lot of the customer service people who are helping me aren’t that cool about it. Some get annoyed when you ask “is it a chip?” and I understand they must get it a lot, but the anxious part of me internalizes that shit. I have to remind myself that many times there is NO other way for me to know whether or not to swipe or insert my card and there’s nothing wrong with me asking. I’m not about to swipe my card and have that thing honk at me (it honks, right? definitely not a beep) if it’s chip-ready.

I started taking notice of how different stores instruct people on this dire situation…

Number 1: the no indication whatsoever
These leave you guessing. It’s like Ross and Rachel up in here. Here’s The Container Store and an airport bookstore.





Number 2: the branded warning card
The smartest stores, and those I appreciate most, try to use a little branded signage to say hey, no chip card welcome here. It’s consistent with the brand and the customers majorly appreciate not being able to try to insert the card because there are instructions stopping them.

Here’s Wegman’s, Snap Kitchen in Philly, Panera and Dunkin (you can see what I spend MY money on).







Number 3: the homemade solution


This is when the customer service staff gets annoyed at someone asking the question so they take matters into their own hands. There are usually two types of these: the “put tape over the chip insert slot” and the “handwrite a message somewhere.” It should be noted that while the “write a message” looks quite unprofessional (especially one of the ones I’m about to post), the “tape” solution is SO much worse. In multiple places, I’ve seen black electrical tape over the slot and it blends in so then you feel stupid that you’re jamming your card into a non-existent slot.

Here’s the tape solution a la Starbucks and Dunkin. Starbucks is opting for the stealthy black version while Dunkin is going plain ol’ masking tape (I think this was before they got their branded cards).





Here’s the handwritten message version that coincidentally, is ALL Starbucks. The last one is my favorite.

Number 4: The insert-card instructions
These places have taken some initiative to make instructions on using the chip card and it’s really thoughtful. However, I don’t think it’s intuitive because I’m so used to cards that are in slots preventing me from swiping, so my instinct is actually the opposite of what the designer intended.

Here’s Michael’s and Giant Food.





Number 5: My solution
I think I may have seen this somewhere, but I can’t figure out why I wouldn’t have taken a picture of it. Whoever they are, they have the right idea. If you DO have chip functionality, place a sign attached to the underside of the machine that has an open space FOR the card and put your instructions there. Here’s my very basic version.

So that’s it. I hope stores start getting it together because I’m tired of the needless anxiety. Also, apparently it’s really bad if you have a chip credit card and have to swipe it, according to a few articles (like Good Housekeeping and 6abc). Let’s not even get started on the anxiety around possibly having your credit card info stolen!

Meghan Kelly