The merchant EMV liability shift is coming this week, and many merchants argue they don’t need to invest in new payment terminals because they’ve had only one or two fraudulent incidences in the entire history of their business.
While there might have been only a few incidences they were aware of, there were likely countless other fraudulent attacks that were handled by the card issuer because they are the ones that were liable.
Investing in new payment terminals could save merchants large sums of money in the future. It’s the best insurance against the new liability rules. It’s not a matter of if, but when, you will be liable for fraud if you opt to keep only the magnetic terminals.
The United States is the last major country in the world to still primarily issue and use magnetic strip credit/debit cards. The data contained in these strips is easily mimicked, and thus the cards are more prone to fraud.
This leads to the United States accounting for over 50% of all global credit/debit card fraud. The losses from fraud was estimated at $6.8-billion for 2013. The outdated magnetic strip technology is responsible for many of the high-profile data breaches, including the Target hack.
EMV cards (created by Europay, Visa and Matercard) contain a processing chip. This chip reduces the risk of fraud by creating a unique code for each transaction. This data is much harder to track or replicate, making it harder for criminals to steal information for fraudulent purposes.
Any cardholder whose card issuer adopts EMV technology (and most are) will receive a new chip-enabled card in the mail. Now, instead of swiping their card, people will insert and keep the card in a new card reader until the transaction is complete.
While there is virtually nothing customers need to do to adapt to this change, aside from not forgetting their cards in the new readers, merchants need to install the new EMV terminals. Failing to do so can result in major liability losses given the new regulations.
With the magnetic cards, any fraud that occurred was the responsibility of the card issuer. With the new EMV cards, fraud liability is now the responsibility of the merchant, if that fraud occurs on an outdated magnetic swipe terminal. It is the ultimate “stick” motivation for merchants to update technology and be active participants in reducing card fraud.
By upgrading, merchants also gain trust with customers. First, it shows that you care about their financial and identity security. It’s easy to imagine customers viewing merchants with magnetic terminals the same way the viewed merchants who were slow to upgrade from paper to electronic swipe: as dinosaurs who can’t be fully trusted with their business.
Second, it builds trust through education and awareness. Many customers don’t know about this change and will be easily confused when they encounter the new terminals for the first time. Merchants who’ve made the transition are positioned to teach customers how to use the news system and explain to them the benefits.
This transition is happening and it’s happening now. Merchants have two choices to make. They can either leave themselves open to major financial liability and lose trust with customers. Or, they can adapt, upgrade, protect their business and help in the fight against fraud.
Wade Barnes is senior vice president and director of retail banking at 1stMariner Bank.