Last October, the credit card industry in the United States finally began its long awaited migration from the decades old magnetic stripe technology to cards with embedded microchips. With this upgrade, card issuers are enjoying much more secure transactions, yet shoppers and retailers are being frustrated by much longer waits to complete their transactions.
The Chip and Pin Slowdown
It can be frustrating to be waiting in line behind a shopper who is sorting through his change to pay with dozens of coins or by slowly filling out their checkbook. But while credit card transactions used to take just a second or two, the new embedded microchips, called EMV smart chips, sometimes take 15 seconds or longer to be read and authenticated. And although this doesn't sound like too large of a burden, it can add up quickly when there are several people in line ahead of you. And the effect is even worse for retailers who see these delays multiplied by the number of customers. In fact, these merchants must often add staff to its registers and can potentially lose customers who see a big line and just leave.
Thankfully, Visa just announced the introduction of its Quick Chip for EMV program, which promises to speed up checkout times. This new system is deployed via a software upgrade that can be completed by merchants. It promises to speed up checkout times in two ways. First, it will prompt customers to quickly insert and remove their cards, reducing the reading time to under two seconds. But in addition, customers will be able to complete this process at any time during the transaction, including when the purchases are being rung up. In contrast, many chip card transactions fail when the shopper inserts or removes his or her card too early.
Other Problems Slowing Down EMV Chip Card Transactions
While the anticipated increases in processing speeds are welcome, there are still other issues that continue to slow down all credit card transactions following the chip card migration. The biggest problem is that not all cards with chip readers are accepting chip cards, which leads to potential problems. For example, those with chip cards will insert their card into an inactive reader, which will not work. And after doing so at multiple retailers, some cardholders will just go back to swiping their chip cards, which doesn't work when the chip card reader has been activated.
The reason that some retailers have inactive chip card readers is due to the expensive software upgrades that credit card processors are requiring from merchants before their chip card readers can be activated. As a result, both retailers and shoppers continue to be frustrated by the ambiguous credit card terminals. To solve this problem, many retailers have resorted to either taping up their chip card readers or posting handwritten signs telling customers how to use their credit cards, which is an inelegant solution at best.
With any roll out of this scale, there were bound to be some hiccups and glitches, but the majority of the EMV chip migration has been smooth. By taking steps to speed up transactions, Visa is hastening the day when shoppers and retailers enjoy the speedy credit card transaction that they use to take for granted.