The good news for companies that accept credit cards is that some clarity is beginning to emerge about the transition to a more secure card payment system in the United States.
The latest developments include an increasingly growing universe of secure payment cards making their way to customers throughout the country. Other good news may also include the growing ability of businesses to begin accepting secure payment cards, but exactly how much progress has been made in this area remains a bit uncertain.
A press briefing held Feb. 3 during the 2015 Smart Card Alliance Payments Summit in Salt Lake City provided hope in the form of an announcement that about half of all credit cards will have embedded EMV chips by the time merchants are supposed to start accepting them on Oct. 1, 2015. Likewise, about half of all credit card terminals that accept those EMV chips are expected to be up and running at the same time.
This estimate is somewhat different from when the same group estimated more 70 percent penetration last year. The Smart Card Alliance, which works with EMVCo to set standards and foster adoption of EMV chip-based cards, sponsored the briefing.
It was conducted by representatives of American Express, MasterCard and Visa. EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, which are three of the card issuers that use the chips to help combat fraud.
The folks at the briefing spoke happily about the level of adoption, which they say is growing. In fact, there are some efforts afoot to encourage this adoption. American Express announced that it would provide a $100 gift card to any business that converts its card terminals to accept EMV by April 30. Costco announced that it will offer EMV terminals to its customers for $100. So by using the $100 gift card from American Express to buy a $100 EMV terminal from Costco, merchants could effectively get started processing secure payments for free.
A major point of the press briefing was to explain how hard card issuers and banks are working to get the word out about the importance of EMV cards and to tell customers how to get the terminals required to use them. This, of course, meant that it was incumbent on me as a journalist to call some small businesses to see if anyone had actually heard of them.
So, in a totally unscientific survey, I called all of the small businesses I could think of. One of those businesses, a very upscale restaurant near my office, actually had heard of EMV chip cards and the owner had actually seen some.
The owner of that business had recently been to Austria and had noticed everyone using those cards. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to get that more secure capability for his business, although when I asked him about it, he really wanted to find out.