Many Americans who travel abroad have already experienced the changes that chip technology will bring when chip technology rolls out widely this year.
After dinner in Paris, London or just about any place in the developed world outside the U.S., consumers can use chip technology. Instead of handing a credit card to a waiter who disappears with it, a wireless hand-held device is brought to to the consumer. The consumer inserts the chip card, taps in his or her personal code if necessary, and voilà the consumer has paid dinner, securely.
This change means card information wont be passed to the merchant for payment. Instead, the embedded chip on the card communicates a single-use code to the card reader. Behind the scenes, the reader passes the one-time code through the wireless network to validate that the card is legitimate and to authorize the transaction. The single-use code can only be used for that transaction, and does not include the card number. So thieves cant reuse the information passed during a chip transaction to commit fraud. That means American consumers finally get the same payment card abilities, safety and security that consumers in Europe, Canada, Asia, Latin America, and even North Korea enjoy.
Thats important because payment card fraud is bigger and growing faster in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. News reports have covered a steady stream of high-profile cases of hackers compromising the payment and identity information of millions of American consumers. While credit card holders are typically not held liable for fraudulent charges on their accounts, they pay the price of inconvenience when cards need to be replaced for security. Plus the $7.1-billion annual price tag for US fraud ultimately makes its way back to consumers by way of higher consumer prices or fewer card benefits.
Everywhere chip technology is used, counterfeit fraud from point of sale purchases has been significantly reduced. In the United Kingdom, retailers saw losses fall 67% since chip implementation in 2004. When Canada instituted chip cards in 2008, annual fraud losses fell from $142 million to just $38.5 million in one year.
In 2012, card networks announced plans to shift the U.S. payments system to chip technology. Since 2012, card networks and payment acquirers have been working closely with merchants to educate them about chip technology and to help them upgrade their payment systems.
Visa and Mastercard both announced an important Oct. 1, 2015, deadline that provides powerful motivation for merchants to adopt the new systems. Starting October 1st, the financial liability for the cost of any payment card fraud shifts to the party within the transaction that did the least to prevent the fraud. That means if a card issuer offered chip technology, but a merchant couldnt accept it at point of sale, the merchant bears the financial responsibility if and when the consumers card information is stolen at point of sale and used fraudulently.
According to a recent survey commissioned by Chase, 80% of consumers are concerned about the security of debit and credit card transactions, yet 65% have not heard of chip technology, highlighting the need for additional education to consumers. Among those surveyed who understand the purpose of chip technology, three in four (76%) believe it will help small businesses by preventing fraud.
Consumers can expect to use their new chip cards at most larger merchants, but some smaller merchants may be slower to adapt. Thats because one-third of smaller merchants are unaware of chip cards.
The process of making a payment at a chip card reader is a bit different than with magnetic strip cards, and while not all chip card readers will look the same, the transaction process with each is nearly identical. As we transition to chip, consumers will swipe the card the same way as today. If prompted, theyll then insert the card with the chip side facing up into the reader and leave it in the terminal until the transaction is complete. Similarly, ATM machines with chip readers will hold cards through the transaction, instead of immediately releasing cards back to consumers.
Consumers will just need to follow the prompts to enter PIN or sign as needed. In the U.S., not all merchants will adopt use of a PIN, or personal identification number. Even with the chip card or a debit card, some may still prompt for a signature. Also, its important to note that transaction time at point of sale and at ATMs will be similar to what youd expect today when you swipe a magnetic strip for payment; however, it may seem longer because the card is held through the transaction.
Implementation in other countries shows that fraud has migrated online when chip technology is implemented. Tokenization allows account information to be replaced with a token which is essentially worthless to fraud-seekers across all payment types.
Simply put, the future of payments is digital and will bring enhanced security, reduced hassle and greater benefits to consumers. Consumers and businesses alike should embrace chip adoption as the first, transformational step toward the future of digital payments.
Dina DeMerell is director of card services at Chase credit cards.