WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Starting in January, Defense Department government travel card holders will begin receiving new "chip and PIN" cards, the director of the Defense Travel Management Office said.
In December, the department is due to wrap up a pilot program that started in February and involved about 600 users, Harvey Johnson said in a DoD News interview, adding that the pilot program has been successful so far.
The chip and PIN system already has been adopted in many parts of the world, because it offers additional security to credit card users and merchants. Transactions involving these cards work something like an ATM withdrawal, in that the user inserts the card into a point-of-sale machine, and rather than signing for the purchase, the customer enters a four-digit personal identification number.
Point-of-sale machines read a chip embedded in the card — rather than the magnetic strip on the back — and the cardholder never has to hand the card off to a merchant. This two-step system protects against identity theft more effectively than the relatively easy-to-counterfeit magnetic strip and signature system.
Rollout to DoD users will begin with cardholders who have cards that will expire soon, Johnson said.
"So, as your card expires, you'll receive a chip and PIN," he explained. "If you're new to the Department of Defense, you'll receive a chip and PIN card."
Next up are cardholders who travel frequently, Johnson said.
"It used to be that we considered it frequent travel if you travel three times a year," Johnson noted, "but now we're sort of moving away from that, and if you travel [at all], we're going to recommend that you use a chip and PIN card and that you get a [government travel] card."
By late summer of 2015, all Defense Department travelers will have the chip and PIN card, Johnson said.
For now, chip and PIN cards are limited to people in the test population, but beginning in January, travelers will be able to request one if they will be traveling to a location where chip and PIN cards are dominant, Johnson said.
"Once we have an implementation plan, we will spell out how we actually do that," he said. With about 1.3 million government travel card users, Johnson noted, "if everybody wants it in January, we probably can't get there. So there needs to be a methodical deployment."