By Jill Jaracz


5 Min. To Read

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For decades, credit cards have had the same look: plastic, with an account number embossed on the front and a magnetic stripe on the back. The introduction of the EMV card started changing the appearance of credit cards, adding a computer chip to the front of the card that negates the need for a magnetic stripe. Now two companies are adding more innovations to credit cards that offer consumers different features and protection capabilities.

Pittsburgh-based Dynamics, Inc., has a credit card product called ePlate that gives cardholders the ability to choose the rewards program for each purchase they make.

The card uses two of Dynamics' technologies: Chip and Choice and Electronic Stripe. The Chip and Choice uses an embedded secure chip within the card and an exposed chip. The card also contains two buttons on the front of the card that can be tied to various options. The cardholder selects which option he wants before making his purchase, and the card chip writes the proper profile onto the exposed chip. The Electronic Stripe is also fully programmable, and the card architecture can change the information on the stripe at any time as well in order to assign payment options as well.

The Chip and Choice feature can be used to select different payment methods, such as paying with credit or using points for a purchase, but in the ePlate card, it's used as a way to tie multiple rewards programs to one card. The card ties to an online Experience Manager, where there are dozens of rewards programs, like earning cash back in the form of statement credits, getting fitness equipment at Body by Jake, enjoying a Skip Barber Racing School experience or donating to Toys for Tots. You pick two options for rewards, and those options tie to the buttons on the card. These are not permanent options--you can change your mind and assign the card rewards buttons at any time by logging onto your account through a computer, tablet or smart phone. You can also assign rewards when you use your card for online purchases.

Once you've picked your rewards programs, before you make a purchase, you simply push the button tied to the program you want to use, your selection lights up, and the card allocates the purchase's rewards accordingly.

The card comes in two versions. The ePlate EZ has no annual fee and offers one percent rewards. The ePlate has a $99 annual fee and offers 1.25% for cash back rewards, 1.35% for air mile rewards and up to double rewards on other experiences.

Another company hopes to have yet another way to keep credit card information secure. Florida-based SmartMetric, Inc. has introduced an EMV chip card that secures the PIN assigned to it with a fingerprint.

While EMV chip cards are standard in other parts of the world, they are starting to make their way into the American market. One of the reasons chip cards are making inroads is because they are more secure than magnetic stripe cards. The card information is stored in a chip located on the card, and the PIN is a verification that the user is actually the person connected with the card's account.

However, it is possible for hackers to steal the chip's information by hacking into the card's PIN. SmartMetric has added a fingerprint modality to improve credit card security. The card contains a fingerprint reader that takes an initial scan of the cardholder's fingerprint and stores it on the card. When making a purchase, the cardholder uses the card to take a scan of his fingerprint, which is matched to the one stored on the card. If there's a match, the card authorizes the purchase. The fingerprint data is encrypted and stays only on the card, so identity thieves have no way to hack into a network and steal the fingerprint information.

SmartMetric hopes to set up trials for this new product in the last quarter of this year.

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