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3 ways EMV may affect holiday shopping

Sienna Kossman

Don’t let chip cards ruin your Christmas, fraud haunt your Hanukkah or identity theft compromise your Kwanzaa celebrations. The U.S. is in the midst of a major payment card transition and that means some of our holiday shopping experiences may be a bit different this year.

Whether you will join Black Friday shopping crowds later this month or race to the store for last minute gifts in December, here are three things to know about how the introduction of EMV technology will impact our seasonal retail forays:

1)  Checkout lanes will move slower.
You may soon find yourself grumbling about the time it takes dipped chip cards to process as shopping crowds get bigger and store checkout lines get longer.

Unlike a quick, half-second magnetic stripe card swipe, a chip card may take a several seconds to process before it can be removed from the payment terminal and the cardholder can finish his transaction.

Some consumers are already griping. An article from Banking Exchange details a variety of Target customer reactions to the slower dipping process, ranging from mild concern to pure irritation.

In my opinion, waiting a few extra seconds at the register isn’t much to complain about and we should be more patient with chip cards. After all, those new cards could actually be saving us time if they truly do protect us more from fraud.

If you have a chip card and plan to use it while holiday shopping at retailers who have the chip terminals, try not to whine when your payment takes more than a second or two to process. It’s something we all have to deal with it. Plan your holiday shopping trips accordingly and take a deep breath.

2)  Chip card experiences may vary.
More than a full month has passed since the Oct. 1 EMV liability shift deadline when many retailers turned their new card readers on and started accepting the new payment cards. However, the transition to EMV payment technology is nowhere near complete.

EMV statistics released on Oct. 25 by Ingenico Group based on a 1,000-person survey note that only about 60 percent of U.S. cardholders have received EMV cards from their banks and card issuers.

And retailers have been slow to make the switch. According to Aite Group financial fraud analyst Shirley Inscoe, many merchants are still unaware of the Oct. 1 shift and have not upgraded their payment systems. A TD Bank survey found that only 41 percent of small businesses have installed chip-enabled payment terminals, due to cost concerns, low fraud rates and an absence of EMV training.

So your holiday shopping payment experiences may vary depending on where you shop. To avoid high levels of irritation or confusion, brush up on your chip card facts before you head out the door. That way you’ll know how to use your chip card when you can, what to expect and maybe also answer other shopper questions if a cashier cannot.

3)  Be on alert for fraud.
Industry experts have long expected the U.S. will experience fraud migration following the adoption of EMV payment technology and it may have already begun. Authorities are currently looking for those responsible for a recent multimillion-dollar pay-at-the-pump skimming spree.

“Unattended, and especially older, self-service gas pumps are, and have always been, a very attractive target for criminals,” financial fraud expert Avivah Litan told BankInfoSecurity. “And they will become increasingly attractive, as these will be some of the last payment acceptance devices to be upgraded to EMV in the U.S.” Gas pumps and ATMs will have a separate EMV liability shift on Oct. 1, 2017.

While the stress that comes with the holiday season ramps up, it’s still important to make the time to monitor your payment accounts and cards to ensure you haven’t been taken advantage of amid the hustle and bustle.

Taking small proactive measures, such as checking gas station and ATM payment terminals for signs of tampering will help ensure a case of fraud doesn’t steal away your holiday cheer.

If you’re all about shopping online for Cyber Monday deals, make sure the Web pages you make purchases on are secure (look for “https” in the URL) and your Wi-Fi connection is password-protected. Chip card security technology doesn’t work online, after all.

If you are shopping in-store, carry your cards in a safe place, not just aimlessly tucked in a pocket where they could easily slip out, be picked up and used by someone else. Since most U.S. chip cards are chip-and-signature, not chip-and-PIN, someone could still steal your card and sign for a fraudulent transaction if the cashier doesn’t verify your identity with the name on the card.

Here’s to slower, but maybe safer, holiday shopping in 2015!

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