A lot has happened since the first chip-and-PIN posts on these boards about three years ago; at that point, there was not a single card issuer in the U.S. issuing cards with the little chip that was already on nearly every credit and debit card in Europe, and was being added in Canada. In fact, U.S. issuers were resisting mightily. The picture has changed.
The reason this matters to travelers, of course, is that U.S. travelers visit places where chip-and-PIN is the norm, and even though in most (not all!) situations, a U.S. swipe-and-sign card will work, there are increasing places where it won't, especially in automated ticket machines, unattended gas stations and parking lots, toll booths and more. And, where clerks are unfamiliar with the fact that they can still swipe it...well, who wants to stand there, holding up the line and waiting for a manager to come and explain when you really want to be done and on your vacation.
For those who haven't followed the issue, the chip (called an EMV chip for the developers of the protocol, Europay, MasterCard and Visa) is a small electronic device embedded in a credit card. At the point of sale, the card is inserted in a slot, and the terminal asks the user to enter a 4-digit PIN (Personal Identification Number) on the pad. If it matches the PIN encoded on the chip, the transaction is approved; if not...then not! It was designed to be more secure than the familiar magnetic stripe and signature. The mag stripe can be fairly easily cloned, and nothing verifies signatures except the eye of the (often woefully negligent) attendant at the register. Also, it allows verification even if the network is down...because the two elements required, the chip and the PIN, are both present.
Because it is much more secure, it has not only reduced credit card fraud in the countries where it has been adopted, it has also driven signature/swipe based fraud to the remianing places where swipe-and-sign is king--including especially the U.S. For that reason, both Visa and MasterCard have put chip-based plans in place for the U.S., and you'll be seeing more and more in the next 18 months or so, because Visa, MC, Amex and Discover have set dates for a "liability shift," meaning that any transaction that is not done in the most secure way available (chip) that goes bad will be the responsibility of the merchant, not the card-issuer. As part of this, all the networks that handle card data were required to certify by last month that they are able to handle the data. If you want to follow all the details, here's a useful link.
Aside from the card networks, large merchants have also been pushing for an EMV shift in the U.S. Target and Walmart in particular have been vocal on the issue, and were among the earliest to make all their new point-of-sale equipment capable of reading cards. Now, new cardreaders are popping up everywhere...take a look at the ones where you are swiping your card now; nearly every new one also has a slot in the front edge (sometimes filled with a plastic insert) just waiting for the EMV system to be turned on.
In the meantime, card issuers are slowly slipping their feet into the waters, mostly for high-end cards used by business or frequent travelers--and mostly NOT chip-and-PIN, but chip-and-signature. This is less secure, but cheaper. An individual PIN doesn't need to be encoded in the chip, just the bank and account information, and therefore a change of PIN doesn't require the card be either replaced, or brought to a site with a machine that can write the new PIN physically to the card. But it is less secure, because we're back to the (often busy or negligent) salesclerk as the front-line of verification. PIN-based terminals print receipts for the customer; when a non-PIN card with EMV is used, it will generate a signature receipt for you to sign. Usually, but not in unmanned or automated situations where there is no one to check your signature!
Chip-and-signature cards are now available at consumer level from a number of issuers, including Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo and USBank among others--but you may have to poke around and ask questions before you find the person who knows. Amex also issues some cards with EMV. But the gold standard--chip AND PIN--is still rare here. Several credit unions issue them, including State Department Federal Credit Union and Andrews Federal Credit Union. Both require an affiliation, but that can be met by joining (for free) a consumer advocacy organization (details on their websites). The SDFCU card, however, while it has a PIN, is set to be "signature priority," which means it will default to signature except where that doesn't work and will then ask for a PIN.
At this point, the one issuer I know of that is issuing PIN priority, true chip-and-PIN cards that work exactly like their European or Canadian counterparts in substantial quantity is USAA Federal Credit Union. USAA itself is a mutual insurance organization open only to military, retired military and present or former dependents, but the card is NOT limited to USAA members. Details at