Consumers could decide for themselves whether to use an EMV-chip card with a signature or PIN if the card is coded to accept such a change. But the technology to support PIN reset will be spotty at first.
It will be up to the issuers to enable this feature at their ATMs, and many U.S. banks are already divided on whether to use PIN or signature authentication on their EMV-chip cards. Visa has encouraged signature-only authentication to ease adoption of the secure card technology, whereas MasterCard's rules favor PIN authentication for the added security.
"The ATM machines capable of allowing a PIN change likely will support only that particular bank's cards, not any cards, and not on any other machines," said Randy Vanderhoof, director of the EMV Migration Forum. "What keys are managed and what capability of programming a card would have at a non-banked-owned ATM machine is another step farther down the road."
The EMV Migration Forum, an industry organization, is alerting banks that they can add this PIN-changing feature while adding EMV technology to their ATMs.
Changing a PIN at the ATM is not a widely supported feature in the U.S. market today, but it has been a major part of EMV implementation in other markets, Vanderhoof said. And even though many U.S. issuers and merchants will start with chip-and-signature, their cards can accommodate a PIN at any time, he said.
If an ATM network is upgraded to support PIN reset at the ATM for offline PIN, then a card issued as chip-and-signature preferred could be modified through ATM scripting to reset to chip-and-PIN.
"It could be done without reissuing the card," Vanderhoof said, citing potential savings for banks.
Merchants may want to temper their enthusiasm, if they viewed this technology as a way to ultimately get more chip-and-PIN cards in circulation, said Brian Riley, senior research director and analyst with Boston-based CEB TowerGroup.
It could be a long wait for banks to support such a technology on machines not part of their own ATM network, Riley said.
"Banks work to keep their stuff safe and they wouldn't want to allow any types of changes on their cards at a third-party machine," Riley said.
It also seems unlikely that a bank would partner with a retailer to introduce a program in which its customers had a choice to convert their chip-and-signature cards, Riley said.
"When you open the gate a little bit for a large retailer, then you would have others asking if they could do it," Riley said. Such a scenario would set up banks for legal action, he added.
ATM operators had to comply for EMV acceptance of international transactions initiated by a MasterCard Maestro card in April of 2013. They have more time to enable units to accept all EMV transactions.
MasterCard's liability shift in the U.S. for ATMs will take effect Oct. 1, 2016, while Visa's will be Oct. 1, 2017.
If a consumer initiates an EMV card transaction at a non-EMV U.S. ATM, and the transaction is later deemed to be counterfeit fraud, the non-EMV compliant party is liable for that fraud.