American Express Hops on the Faster EMV Checkout Train

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American Express has joined Visa and MasterCard as a major card brand offering faster authorization at the point of sale to ease the perception that EMV payments take too long.

In addressing an industry concern that EMV transactions were taking up to 10 seconds to complete in a chip-card reader, American Express is offering Amex Quick Chip to its merchant processors to make available to interested merchants.

Currently, consumers presenting an EMV chip card insert that card into a reader and wait for the reader pad to provide an alert that the authorization is complete and  it is safe to remove the card. With Quick Chip coding, the cardholder can remove the card while the authorization process continues.

"We absolutely believe we are providing merchants with an option that is a way of helping speed things up," said Mike Matan, vice president of network management for American Express' global network business.

In addition to reducing transaction time to two or three seconds, or similar to a mag-stripe swipe transaction, the Quick Chip coding upgrade may also help merchants who remain undecided about EMV to adopt the technology designed to reduce counterfeit fraud.

U.S. merchants faced the liability shift for the EMV migration in October of 2015. Merchants not accepting EMV chip cards past that timeline become liable for fraudulent transactions at their terminals.

"The fact that we provide another option can only make it easier for the merchant to adopt EMV, which is in everyone's best interests," Matan said.

American Express' move toward a faster EMV transaction follows similar moves by Visa with its Visa Quick Chip and MasterCard with M/Chip Fast.

While American Express' option just became available June 15, it remains too early even for Visa or MasterCard to determine what type of response or uptake it was getting from merchants for its faster EMV options.

As with any new payment technology advancements, merchants may take a slow approach to this upgrade as well, while determining exactly how it affects their checkout flow and authorization processes.

MasterCard acknowledged it had no information to share regarding M/Chip at this time, but Chiro Aikat, senior vice president of product delivery for EMV at MasterCard, acknowledged the industry is moving in the right direction.

“We are in the process of working with merchants and the industry as whole," Aikat said. "It was good to see the Amex announcement this morning and that their specs mirror our specs. We are working with some merchants and their vendors to put the M/Chip Fast solution in practice, which will help us gauge the benefits of the solution in a live environment.”

Visa said acquirer/processors are showing interest, as well as larger merchants.

"We have had positive feedback from several national merchants," Visa stated in an e-mail. "We hope to share more information about the merchant implementation plans soon."

While not easy to document at this time, it is possible that terminal manufacturers and processors alike are waiting for all major card brands to have solutions in place before recoding terminals with the individual brand specs.

"Everyone's product is based on the EMVCo standards for interoperability around the world, but we all have our own product specifications as well," Matan said.

EMVCo operates as the EMV standards body supported through the major card brands globally.

A merchant seeking to incorporate the faster EMV upgrade at his terminal would see those changes made through the terminal provider.

"With each scheme essentially publishing their own specs to complement the EMVCo standards, I would imagine the POS provider would make the code change for all of those brands at the same time, making it as easy as possible [for the merchant] to make those changes," Matan added.

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