Over the last several months, many experts have said that a big reason why more widespread adoption of EMV transactions among merchants large and small has taken so long is that it's a bit of a slow process. In comparison with swiping a credit card in the traditional way, or even with the new mobile payment platforms that are starting to gain serious traction nationwide, EMV purchases take an extra few seconds, and that has led to frustration among consumers. However, it seems that all involved are aware of that pain point, and new efforts to address it could dramatically speed up not only each transaction, but widespread adoption of EMV.
Those who have used EMV at a relatively small number of major national chains since the liability shift went into effect last November can quickly familiarize themselves with the process. They insert their card into the point-of-sale machine, and leave it there as they choose debit or credit, whether they want cash back, and so on. Then the machine says the card can be removed from the terminal. The process takes 20-30 seconds in a lot of cases. That feels like a lot longer than the swipe or tap options do, even if the practical upshot ends up being the same.
How will new technology change that?
Meanwhile, both Visa and MasterCard - the world's two largest payment processing companies - are developing platforms that significantly reduce the amount of time EMV transactions take to go through, according to a report from the Members Group. The new, faster processes will require cardholders to insert their cards as they do now, but they will be able to be removed much more quickly, and the final result could rival the tap-to-pay convenience of mobile payment-capable devices.
It's not currently clear exactly when these new technologies will be broadly available, however, as they're still being tested by the processing firms, the report said. But when they do, and if they can indeed significantly reduce EMV transaction times, there should be a massive benefit not only to consumers who may feel pressed for time, but also to merchants and the payment processors themselves.
What does this mean?
The fact that many merchants in the U.S. still lag in adoption of EMV is likely a little worrying for payment processors, simply because this payment technology significantly reduces instances of purchase fraud. That can also cause headaches for retailers and other businesses, regardless of size, and even consumers whose account details may be at risk for theft. The more EMV purchases there are to replace traditional swiping transactions, the less fraud there's going to be in the entire payments ecosystem.
Moreover, the ability to complete these transactions more quickly will probably lead to fewer consumers having objections to the switch, which has been another major stumbling block in the EMV rollout. This is vital, because whether businesses or consumers like it or not, more liability shifts are coming, and finding ways to get used to the new paradigm will be vital.