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The Race for Faster EMV Gets Crowded

As more merchants worry about EMV card slowdowns ahead of the holiday shopping season—when bottlenecks at checkout points could lead to many lost sales—more companies are coming up with their own ways to slash EMV payment times.

The U.S. Payments Forum this week released a white paper with advice for merchants and other parties to cut time required for a chip card to process at the point of sale, including details about adopting new, streamlined EMV implementation approaches from the card networks

The Princeton, N.J.-based industry organization described how the newest technical option, available for online-only retail environments, can speed up EMV transactions by enabling consumers to leave the chip card in the reader for only a few seconds, which is closer to the time required to swipe a magnetic-stripe card than the standard eight to 10 seconds an EMV card often requires.

But the Quick Chip and M/Chip Fast approaches, announced by Visa and Mastercard respectively in April, are ideally suited to merchants that are just now beginning the process of upgrading to chip cards. Thus, not many merchants who already support traditional EMV are likely to reap those benefits before the holidays, according to card network executives.

The U.S. Payments Forum in its white paper also provides updated tips for merchants, acquirers and issuers about steps to speed up EMV card-processing, including promoting the use of contactless EMV transactions via smartphones (and cards for the handful of issuers supporting dual-interface cards) and various techniques to optimize the physical checkout process including handling cash-back, loyalty programs and dynamic currency conversion.

Separately, many payment processors and acquirers are working independently to tweak EMV card processing.

First Data Corp.’s Clover Mini EMV-enabled payment terminal, introduced in May 2015, releases the EMV card in under 3 seconds, the company announced this week.

“Over the past year we’ve been working to shave milliseconds here and there off of Clover Mini’s EMV processing time through various technical adjustments and subtle nuances in the payment flow that make it very fast and secure now,” said John Beatty, Clover’s co-founder and chief technology officer.

Clover has a very tight integration with the EMV kernel, which helps cut end-to-end transaction time, Beatty said.

“It’s really critical that the connection between the device and the processor is highly optimized, and another trick we have found to speed up EMV is keeping connections like the transport layer security open all the time, avoiding the need to reopen connections during a transaction,” Beatty said, adding: “We kept working at it and we found five or 10 different little things to change that sped up connections around the terminal.”

Quick Chip and M/Chip Fast may help many merchants speed EMV adoption, but they don't address many other elements of the work flow that surrounds chip card acceptance from a technical and organizational perspective, Beatty said. Clover is currently evaluating the networks’ streamlined approach for EMV, but the company has not announced any plans yet for Quick Chip or M/Chip Fast, he said.

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