New Zealand payment card issuers must begin using cards that comply with the EMV Integrated Circuit Card Specifications within two years, Visa Inc. said.

Merchants no longer may accept signatures at checkout for domestically issued Visa cards starting in 2012 as part of an effort to cut card fraud.

Visa will work with banks and retailers to upgrade more than 2.6 million Visa cards and thousands of payment terminals to meet the deadline, Sean Preston, Visa's country manager for New Zealand, said in a press release last week.

"From April 2010, all new Visa credit cards issued in New Zealand will feature secure embedded smart chips," Preston said. Only about 4% of Visa cards issued in New Zealand currently meet the EMV specifications, Visa said.

New Zealand merchants, however, will continue to accept signatures for payment cards issued in other countries that have magnetic stripes or chips without PINs, Visa said.