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Be patient with EMV technology

Sienna Kossman

“I don’t understand why I have to leave my card in there. This takes up so much time!”

Last weekend I was in the checkout line at Walmart and overhead a woman in front of me complaining about how long it takes for the new EMV chip cards to process inside the terminals. The cashier agreed with her and said they are “slowing down her efficient lane.” I think the terminal had the customer’s card for maybe five full seconds.

The nationwide EMV shift is (and has been) well underway and with the Oct. 1 EMV fraud liability shift deadline this week, it seems some consumers have become more vocal about their displeasure with this new-to-us payment technology.

Family friends have expressed annoyance about having to activate the new chip cards they are receiving in the mail. It was almost like they were saying, “We didn’t do anything wrong, why should we have to jump through hoops?”

I’ve also heard about people expressing cynicism about chip technology overall, like it isn’t really going to make our transactions safer and it’s just a waste of time and money. “If it’s not going to stop fraud completely, why bother?”

Maybe it’s because I’m so immersed in this topic that I find these grumblings amusing, but I also think consumers as a whole are being too skeptical about this payment technology change.

Just like learning how to ride a bike, memorizing the names of each new relative-in-law — or learning how to swipe your own card at the register a few years ago (remember that?) — adjusting to this new payment landscape will take a bit of time. Whether you are excited or leery about the changes, I think practicing patience will make the migration easier for everyone involved.

Does it take a few extra seconds to pay at the checkout line? Yes, but those few seconds give the payment terminal time to read the card chip, make a unique transaction identifier and better protect your payment card information from fraudsters. That’s a longwinded way of saying, “it’s keeping you safer.”

One of my favorite comedians, Louis C.K., has a bit about how people grumble constantly about slow cellphones and he can’t understand why because these little pieces of technology do so much and we totally take them for granted. “Cellphones have to communicate with satellites in outer space — can we just give them a second?” he says. I feel like the same sentiment can be applied to chip cards. If you want them to work as intended, wait a second or two.

Be patient.

I also think some are too quick to judge just how effective these little chip cards will be. About 60 percent of cardholders don’t even have one yet and retailers are still scrambling to get ready to accept the chip cards that are already out. How in the world can we judge whether or not this migration will help reduce fraud when we’ve barely started testing the waters? Counterfeit card fraud accounts for 37 percent of fraud in the U.S. last year, according to an Aite Group report, so something needs to be done. Since the U.K. saw a 70 percent decrease in counterfeit fraud between 2005 and 2013 after deploying EMV payment technology, it may be worth a try in the U.S.

Be patient.

Are you annoyed because you have to call a 1-800 number to activate a new card? Oh man, that’s a “first world problem” if I’ve ever heard one. I just started receiving chip cards of my own, and I’ll admit it took me a couple days to remember to activate them and destroy my old cards after receiving the new ones, but I think it took maybe 5 minutes total to activate two different cards. If you’ve ever lost a card you were probably issued a new card with a whole new number, which meant you may have had to update auto-payment information and pre-saved online shopping data. Now THAT is annoying.

Be patient.

And lastly, if you are feeling left out of the EMV information loop, take solace in the fact that you’ve got plenty of company. An EMV readiness survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by payment processor ACI Worldwide found that among those who already received EMV chip cards, only one-third are aware the U.S. is migrating to EMV payment technology. Yikes.

It’s a big transition and it seems consumers have not received the information they need to truly understand what’s changing in the payment world. It’s up for debate whether the fault lies with card issuers, payment networks, retailers or some combination of those groups, but regardless, the lapse in education means there is still a lot of work to be done.

Just last night I explained what chip cards were to a PetSmart cashier who didn’t understand my question about her yet-to-be-activated chip card terminal. Maybe that’s how we need to approach this transition going forward: Patiently taking small steps in the right direction. We’ll get there eventually.

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