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Definition: smart card


A credit card or ID card that contains a chip. When inserted into a reader (contact card) or held within a few inches of the reader (contactless), data are transferred to a central computer. Also called a "chip card," smart credit and debit cards adhere to the Europay, MasterCard, Visa standard (see EMV). Smart cards can also be programmed to self-destruct if the wrong password is entered too many times. As a financial transaction card, it can be loaded with digital money.

Contactless Smart Cards Are Like Passive RFID
Like an RFID tag used to track merchandise and vehicles, a contactless smart card is also energized by receiving a radio frequency (RF) transmitted over the air. However, the smart card uses a microcontroller that can provide authentication, encryption and financial processing, whereas RFID tags generally contain only identification data. See EMV, NFC, magnetic stripe, PIV, SIM card, RFID, Java Card and FeliCa.




A Smart Contact Card
Smart cards can have multiple methods of data transfer. This card uses a barcode, and the gold pins make contact with a card reader. (Image courtesy of Smart Card Alliance, www.smartcardalliance.org)






The Chip Card
In this credit card example, five of the eight contacts on the surface of the plastic card (top) are wired to the chip underneath. See EMV.






Contact and Contactless
This Verifone reader accepts both chip-based credit and debit cards (arrow) as well as contactless payments via smartphones (see NFC). (Image courtesy of Verifone Systems Inc., www.verifone.com)






The Smarty Reader
Years ago, Smarty allowed a smart card to be read in a floppy disk drive. Smarty emulated the magnetic field of a rotating disk. (Image courtesy of Fischer International Systems Corporation.)