EMV rollout in the United States has been long and slow. In the locations that have implemented chip card reading technology, there are often a flurry of frustrated customers. Their primary complaint being that chip card transactions are incredibly slow. Unlike their magnetic stripe counterparts, chip cards must be inserted into the reader for a longer period of time until the transaction is complete. Some customers have reported waiting up to 15 seconds or longer for their authorization to go through. Not only does this create agitated customers, but it slows the checkout process completely, increasing wait times in lines for merchants and deterring customers away from their business.
Card issuers were so initially focused on removing fraud liability and improving security that speed of transaction seemed to have been an afterthought. Thankfully Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover have offered solutions for faster EMV transactions. All of these major card brands have updated their EMV software with Quick Chip (M/Chip Fast for MasterCard), hoping to ease the pain of merchants and customers alike.
The Common Problems with EMV
Typical chip card transactions will not begin processing until the cashier has finished ringing up the sale. Customers were used to simply swiping their card while the cashier was ringing up their items, creating a quick checkout process. Now, customers find that they can insert their chip cards, but it will not begin processing. Once the cashier finished and the card does begin to process, there is an average 15-second delay as both the cashier and the customer wait to find out whether the transaction will be successfully approved. This added time is due to the encryption and decryption processes that come with EMV payments, which is what makes them so secure. Beyond that, not all POS terminals are created equal. They differ by processing power, software, and connection speed, all factors that could lead to even longer delays. If for some reason the transaction fails, the customer will then be asked to swipe their card and use the magnetic strip, causing even more delays in transaction speeds.
The primary issue that customers complain about is that the card must be left in the reader until the authorization is completed. This is radically different than older technology, which allowed the customer to swipe their card and then put it away while the transaction was finalizing.