Spending abroad is about to become much easier for Bank of America credit card customers, many of whom will receive new cards with upgraded technology that allows them to make purchases at foreign locations through an EMV chip.

The chip is embedded in credit cards and it encrypts payment information dynamically — preventing card-skimmers from stealing card data. EMV technology became a standard in many foreign nations as card fraud became a major problem for consumers.

Starting this week, newly-issued Merrill Lynch credit cards, U.S. Trust Accolades, BankAmericard Travel Rewards, BankAmericard Privileges and Virgin Atlantic travel cards will come equipped with EMV chips. Bank of America will also upgrade cardmembers that are known to be international travelers.

Chip-enabled version of the card are also available to the following card programs upon request: BankAmericard Cash Rewards™, BankAmericard Power Rewards, BankAmericard, AAA Members Rewards, NEA, Asiana Airlines, Alaska, Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. New customers with these cards will continue to receive non-chip cards — they can convert afterward.

Currently, customers can ask for the upgrade at a Bank of America location or by phone. The online option will come later this year. There is no charge to get the chip-card, which will also have the traditional magnetic strip.

Card customers who don’t often travel internationally will find very little advantage for having a chip-enabled card — at least not in the near term. However, in a few years, EMV is likely to replace the traditional “swipe.”

This initiative by the bank is another push for American consumers to adopt EMV tech, for which there is currently no standard in the United States. Other major card issuers, including Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and U.S. Bank already offer EMV chip technology on many of their prestigious travel credit cards. Bank of America is among the first to offer chip-enabled versions of its lower-tier cards.

All four major U.S. payment networks — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express — have implemented roadmaps to spur EMV adoption in the country. Although each of them set their own specific deadlines, their mandates are very similar.

By April 2013, all payment process must support EMV chip card payments. In 2015, the payment networks will shift fraud liability to merchants if they choose not to accept the more secure EMV chip cards.

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