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Visa’s Quick Chip: A Worthwhile EMV Fix, But Hardly a Cure-All

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In a recent post, we outlined the payments industry’s ongoing efforts to migrate the U.S. marketplace to EMV (chip card) technology. One of the emerging, and somewhat unexpected, barriers to adoption has been consumer dissatisfaction with the perceived slow response times at the point of sale (POS) terminals.

One could argue the real issue is inconsistent checkout experiences across retailers or the challenge of overcoming decades of “swiping” muscle memory, but none of that really matters if consumers perceive the whole affair to be “slower.”

The card networks have been spending time and money attempting to address these perceptions, which have become a hot button for merchants by extension. The most visible initiative is an enhancement from Visa commonly branded as Quick ChipTM (though MasterCard has opted to call its version M/Chip Fast).

Across all networks the concept is similar: reconfigure the process so that consumers can remove their chip card from the reader much sooner to more closely align with the familiar swipe experience. This change trims transaction times slightly and gives consumers a sense of even greater speed by enabling them to physically return the card to their wallet/purse quicker.

Quicker, But Not Automatic

The U.S. Payments Forum has issued a white paper, Optimizing Transaction Speed at the Point of Sale, which covers these Quick Chip initiatives under its “Faster EMV Solutions” section. The fairly technical 29-page paper is not an easy read, but it does bring up several key considerations:

First and foremost, Quick Chip is not an automatic “push” enhancement. Each merchant must decide whether to implement its features, which will require additional testing and certification across IT shops and merchant processors. It’s also important to note that Quick Chip in no way alters the merchant liability shift central to EMV migration.

The U.S. Payments Forum states that, “Faster EMV is geared towards merchants where the cardholder perception of speed is critical.” It also involves some tradeoffs. Merchants deploying “PIN not required” routines for small-ticket transactions may find Quick Chip complicates this application logic (see pp. 6-11 of the white paper for details). Merchants supporting both online and offline transactions are likely to encounter compatibility issues with Quick Chip as well.

More Options Mean More Effort

When addressing a challenge as complex as the U.S. POS network, of course, seldom is any solution a cure all. This is true of the Quick Chip effort. Because not all merchants will implement it, the consumer’s POS experience will become even more disjointed, with cardholders encountering Quick Chip EMV, “Classic EMV” and legacy magnetic swipe at various locations. There are issues for merchants as well since those that have not upgraded to Quick Chip may also risk looking antiquated by comparison. Meanwhile, the card networks find themselves in the awkward position of imposing a heftier implementation/certification burden on those merchants that adhered to the original migration timelines.

In any event, Quick Chip functionality is now available and it’s an enhancement worthy of consideration. It’s also increasingly clear that the path to a widely embraced “EMV end-state” in the United States will involve a multi-step process. Quick Chip is unlikely to be the last EMV upgrade requiring testing; therefore, now is the time to confirm that your payments testing software and processes are up to the task of frequent and efficient changes.    

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