It’s been a long time coming, but microchip credit cards are slowly making their way to Canadian consumers, even if they have to use them overseas to realize the true benefits.

International travelers looking for a more secure way to use a credit card when they travel may want to investigate

the Avion Platinum microchip card launched Wednesday by The Royal Bank of Canada.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce launched its Entourage American Express smart chip card more than a year ago, offering secure online shopping, but it was a new card without an existing customer base. The Royal’s Avion card with chip technology has been launched to an established client base, says Sean Amato-Gauci, director, card product development, RBC Royal Bank.

“”This card is going to the Royal’s most important and highly-valued customer base,”” he said.

Customers that hold the Avion Gold card began receiving the replacement cards in the mail last week. Avion card-holders typically travel overseas where the technology to read the chips already exists.

“”Our rationale for launching this on the Avion card is that those holders travel the most. We wanted to launch on a product that can benefit today from this technology. Given that chip-enabled terminals are prevalent in Europe and some countries in Asia, South America and Australia, Avion card holders will benefit from this,”” Amato-Gauci said.

Catherine Johnston, president and CEO of Ajax-Ont.-based ACT (Advanced Card Technology) Canada was just one RBC customer who received her new Avion card in the mail last week.

“”I’m hoping everyone’s going to say, ‘This is a good step, what’s next?’ As consumers and citizens it’s up to us to say, ‘If the Royal Bank of Canada says this is a good idea, then let’s get on with it.'””

According to statistics from the Canadian Bankers Association, in 2002 Visa and Mastercard wrote off more than $128 million in fraudulent credit card accounts and 136,500 cards were used fraudulently.

And while the overall amount written off has gone down in the last three years, the number of fraudulent cards has gone up.

Johnston, an advocate for smart card technology as a tool to curb identity fraud, says she hopes the launch of Avion will prompt consumers to push for greater use of chip technology in all forms of identification including debit and government-issued identification such as driver’s licences and health cards.

“”I don’t see these launches as each one taking us one step forward. When American Express and CIBC did it, it moved us two steps; this (Avion) moves us four steps and the next one will move us eight steps because there will be a growing awareness. People will say, ‘I carry a Royal Bank card that’s not Avion — why am I not being offered that level of protection?'””

Johnston says since other c

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