Located at the far Eastern end of the Mediterranean, Cyprus tends to be a little behind the rest of Europe in some ways. So it was no surprise to us that when the UK (and, I assume, most of the civilised world) started using 'Chip and Pin' technology on credit and debit cards, Cyprus continued asking for our signature on a credit or debit card slip. Even if using a British card endowed with the Chip'n'Pin system.
However, around the middle of last year we had a letter from the Bank of Cyprus, English one one side and Greek on the other. very efficient. The letter said that they will be adopting this technology here, although they call it 'Pin and Pay'. Signatures would still be fine, they told us, on current cards but all cards issued from January 1st 2008 would have the Chip, and we would be expected to know our PIN - the same one used at an ATM - and enter it when presenting the card for payment.
My debit card expired at the end of January, and a new one arrived in the PO Box a couple of weeks beforehand. I was pleased to see that it said it could be used outside Cyprus, which is also new. And, I was informed, it had a chip embedded in it. So I would need to remember my new PIN, which also arrived in the PO Box. Not as secure as the days (including last year) when the card went to the bank to be collectdd in person, and the PIN came in the post, but never mind. This is, I suppose, progress.
So on February 1st, after shopping at Metro, I presented my new card, having memorised the new number.
But they just asked for my signature on the slip, as they had done with my old card. I shrugged inwardly; I hadn't really expected the new technology...
Last week, however, I was surprised to be presented with the PIN-entering machine, and asked to type it in. Perhaps, I thought, different checkouts had different systems (this has happened before). Fortunately I still remembered the new number, and it all worked well.
Today, at a different checkout, there was no PIN-entering machine. So the checkout lady went to another till, and then called me over to enter the PIN.
Looks like Metro, at least, has caught on. I don't suppose the smaller shops have yet - I've been to at least one in Cyprus that still used the very old style translucent non-computer slips for paying by card - but it's good to know that it's working.
Not that the PIN is (in my view) any more secure than a signature. After all, it's actually easier to type someone else's PIN - if you know it - than to imitate their signature. But then in Cyprus, nobody ever looked at the signature on the back of the card anyway, so perhaps it is more secure here.