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Why did you send this “Access Card” - I already have a member card?

Alterna’s debit cards have been called “Alterna Access Card” for some years. We simply carried the name over from the last version that was issued.

What is this “Access Card” for?

This new Access Card is your new debit card for accessing your accounts through ATMs or using for Interac Debit purchases. It replaces any old Alterna member or debit cards you may have, and should be activated immediately (your old Alterna member or debit cards will no longer work after December 31, 2012).

Why do I have to change my debit card or activate the new one?

There are a couple of reasons why you need to start using your new Access card with chip as soon as you get it. One, chip technology is more secure against skimming and duplication than the outdated magnetic stripe cards. That said, it’s still up to you to be vigilant about protecting your PIN every time and everywhere you use your debit card, and don’t share your PIN with anyone. Two, it’s mandated by the Interac Association that Canadian financial institutions and ABMs will no longer accept magnetic stripe cards for transactions after December 31, 2012. Magnetic stripe cards will no longer be accepted at retail point-of-sale (POS) terminals after December 31, 2015.

Why do I have to use this card? I don’t want to destroy my Canadian Flag card – it’s unique and I like it.

Unfortunately, any previous Alterna debit cards issued to you will no longer work after December 31, 2012, so it’s important that you activate your new card immediately.

Where is my card number on the letter?

Simply lift or remove the card from the letter you received – the number is printed beneath it. You’ll then be able to compare it against what’s embossed on the card.

Is my card activated?

In most cases, your PIN has been transferred over to your new debit chip card. If the letter accompanying your card indicates that your PIN was sent separately, then you’ll receive your PIN in the mail. When you receive your PIN, simply call us to activate your new card.

Where is my chip card?

Debit chip cards are being sent over a period of several weeks. If you haven’t received your debit chip card by October 26, please contact us or visit your local branch.

I only got my card but where is my PIN?

In most cases, your PIN has been transferred over to your new debit chip card, so you’ll be able to use the PIN you did previously. If the letter accompanying your card indicates that your PIN was sent separately, then you’ll receive your PIN in the mail. When you receive your PIN, simply call us to activate your new card.

Why didn’t you put my name on my card?

For security purposes, most financial institutions no longer print names on debit cards.

Will my new card have an expiry date?

Yes – the new debit chip cards are valid for 3-7 years.

What’s so different about a debit card with chip vs. one that’s magnetic stripe?

Debit cards with chip technology have an extra level of encryption security built in, making them more difficult to skim or duplicate. Debit chip cards work together with chip-enabled ATMs and point-of-sale terminals to validate both the card and the cardholder, providing you with increased protection against fraud. Always remember to be vigilant about protecting your PIN each and every time you use your card.

Why is the microchip on my Alterna card smaller than the chip on some of my other cards?

As microchip technology improves, the chips get smaller. Your new Alterna card with chip has state-of-the-art technology packed into a smaller microchip.

Why does my debit chip card still have a magnetic stripe on it?

Chip cards will continue to have a magnetic stripe to facilitate the chip transition period, plus the magnetic stripe will allow you to conduct business in other countries that don’t currently use chip technology.

What will change about the way I use my debit card once I have one with a chip?

Absolutely nothing, other than perhaps inserting your card at a POS terminal rather than swiping it. Everything else about conducting transactions remains the same.

Will I still need a PIN with my chip card?

Yes, the PIN remains an important security element of any transaction you conduct.

What type of information will be stored on my new chip card? Is ‘Big Brother’ keeping tabs?

The information stored on your new chip card is the same information that’s currently stored in the magnetic stripe in the card you use now. The only information that merchants are allowed to store is the basic transaction data, such as the time, date, purchase amount and debit card number. This basic information is necessary in the event that a cardholder requests a trace.

The only information stored from the debit card itself is the debit card number, which alone is not sufficient enough to create a counterfeit card.

Will my spouse or the joint party on my account receive a new chip card?

If the spouse/joint party has a card that was set up under their own member/client number to access your account, they will receive a new card in the mail under their name. If the card was set up under your member/client account number, then the card will be mailed to you and not your spouse/joint party. The card number on the face of the card will match the number that they are presently using.

I have a joint account, and haven’t received my debit chip card, but my spouse received 2 cards under their name. Why?

In some cases, joint accounts were setup as a main account, with the secondary account holder listed as a sub-account. Therefore, only the main account holder would receive the new cards. To determine which card is yours, simply match the old card number to the new card number. You’ll be able to use the same PIN for your new card.

I have only one debit card with me, but I received 2 debit chip cards - why?

In some cases, our banking system has two cards assigned to you because the old card was never cancelled when a new card was issued at some point in the past.

The issue date on the card is the same, but why do we have two different expiry dates on our cards? Shouldn’t they be the same?

We’ve purposely staggered the expiry dates on the new debit chip cards, which will help us avoid large volumes in our Contact Centre when cards expire.

I tried using my new card to make a point-of-sale purchase, but my card wasn’t accepted or I got an error message – now my card won’t work. Why?

Chances are, you mistakenly entered the wrong PIN. Because of the anti-fraud technology built into chip cards, if an incorrect PIN is entered when you’re trying to activate or use your card for the first time, a hold is automatically placed on the card. If you re-enter the PIN correctly at an Alterna ATM (or one in THE EXCHANGE® Network), then deposit or withdraw funds, the hold will be removed. If you don’t remember your PIN or continue to have problems, please visit your branch to verify your identity and reset your PIN.

I tried activating my card at a Manulife ATM, but it doesn't work. What now?

We’ve been notified that our chip cards won’t activate at Manulife ATMs, however, once the card has been activated/used at other ATMs or point-of-sale devices, they are accepted at the Manulife machines. Please activate your card by using it at any Alterna ATM, another ATM that's part of THE EXCHANGE® or Interac® networks, or use it at any point-of-sale terminal to make a purchase.

Why did I receive my card and correspondence in the wrong language?

When we ordered your new debit chip card, we used the language preference that was attached to your old magnetic stripe debit card (either English or French). If you’d like to change the language of your new debit chip card, we’ll replace the card you received with a new card in your preferred language (English or French), and you’ll receive the correct language for items in the future. Please contact us to request a replacement card.

I’ve seen in the news and on television shows that chip cards can be scanned by someone as I simply walk by them. Is this true, and how does my new chip card guard against it?

There have been numerous news articles and television features about this form of fraud, where a security expert is able to get people's card information simply by walking by them on the street with a handheld card reader. This type of technology, largely used in the U.S., is called RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, and is different from the microchip technology used on bank debit cards.

In Canada, RFID technology is used primarily by MasterCard and VISA, commonly known as PayPass and payWave, and is sometimes referred to as “contactless” payment.

The new Alterna Access Card with chip technology does NOT use RFID technology, and is not susceptible to this type of fraud.

Do you have protector sleeves for the cards?

We do not currently offer protector sleeves.

The instructions in the letter I received aren’t very clear.

If you have any trouble understanding the instructions sent to you, please call us – a knowledgeable Contact Centre representative would be pleased to help.

Need more information? Please visit Interac.ca to read more about debit chip cards and chip technology.