Here is a brief glossary of some of the most common terms being used in discussions and articles about the EMV payment ecosystem.


EMV is an acronym for Europay (now owned by VISA), MasterCard and Visa. Together these three companies formed EMVCo in order to create and administer global standards for the use of chip and pin cards. The standards they have developed for the chip and pin cards, POS terminals and payment security make it possible to use a single card to seamlessly make purchases in any store or withdraw cash from any ATM anywhere in the world.

EMV has expanded its sponsoring organizations to also include American Express, Discover, JCB and UnionPay. Together with Visa and MasterCard, these six organizations are the major card brands globally that are available for use in the EMV payment ecosystem.

PIN (Personal Identification Number)

The PIN is typically a numeric code between 4 and 12 digits long that a consumer manually enters on a chip and pin point of sale terminal to authenticate that they are the cardholder. A fraudster using a stolen chip and pin card would not be able to authenticate the card without knowing the PIN associated with it.

Issuing Bank

The issuing bank is where the cardholder has their account. As the name suggests, this is the bank that issues the chip and pin credit card to the consumer, issues/updates their PIN, and handles their monthly billing.

Acquiring Bank

The acquiring bank is where the retailer, who is referred to in the ecosystem as the merchant, has their account. The acquiring bank provides capital to the merchant from each credit card transaction by floating payments up front, then reconciling customer payments and accepting deposits on the backend.

NFC (Near Field Communication)

The new chip and pin credit card terminals at point of sale are also equipped with NFC technology that allows data to be wirelessly exchanged two ways between devices as long as they are almost touching each other. Some of the new chip and pin cards are also equipped with embedded NFC antennas. This enables a “tap and pay” function on the card, thereby avoiding the need to manually enter a PIN. Most smart phones are also now NFC enabled, which allows users who install a mobile wallet app like Apple Pay to tap their phones to pay instead of tapping their actual credit card.

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards)

This is a framework that was created by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council for developing a robust security process to protect credit card data globally. The Council was founded in 2006 by American Express, Discover, JCB, MasterCard and Visa. They share equally in governance and execution of the Council’s work.

PAN (Personal Account Number)

Also known as the Primary Account Number, the PAN is the 16-digit account number that uniquely identifies the cardholder, and is typically embossed on the card itself.


Tokenization is a security process that replaces the customer’s PAN with surrogate token values before it is stored for future reference on a retailer’s servers. These token values can be easily accessed whenever required by retailers to process exchanges or refunds without having to know a customer’s credit card number. Tokenization therefore removes the incentive for hackers to steal credit card information from retailers because any tokenized data they could potentially access would be meaningless to them.

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