For years, Europeans have used credit cards embedded with a tiny microchip. Now, these electronic cards are coming to the U.S. Wells Fargo said it is testing the "chip" cards with frequent travelers, especially those who travel abroad.

The bank said it decided to try to new cards after receiving complaints from customers who reported difficulty using their standard credit cards overseas.

"U.S. issuers and merchants rely primarily on magnetic stripe technology," said Eric Schindewolf, vice president of product development for Wells Fargo Consumer Credit Card. "However, many parts of the world have adopted chip-enabled payment cards as a primary means of authentication, which has been problematic for customers who travel abroad and were unable to use their credit card. By combining traditional magnetic stripe along with the EMV chip technology, we hope our customers will have the convenience to use their credit card no matter where they are in the world."

Last to adopt

In fact, the U.S. is among the last of the developed countries that still relies on the magnetic strip on the back of credit cards to transmit information. Countries that have adopted the chip technology say it is much more secure, resulting in fewer unauthorized transactions.

Wells Fargo is partnering with Visa for the pilot project, whose product is called the Visa Smart Card. It will include both the traditional magnetic strip, as well as the chip. Wells Fargo scanned its database of customers and selected about 15,000 who frequently travel out of the country. They will be offered the Visa Smart Card, which should be available by mid-year, the bank said.

"This initiative will enable Wells Fargo customers to have their Visa card payments accepted anywhere in the world," said Beth Robertson, Director of Payments Research at Javelin Strategy & Research. "EMV technology is important to creating the widespread global acceptance that cardholders expect."