Is the U.S. Finally Getting Smart About Payment Technology?

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Is the U.S. Finally Getting Smart About Payment Technology?

It took the hacking of 70 million Target credit cards during the 2013 holiday season to spur Congress into abandoning the highly unsecure magnetic-stripe cards used by most Americans and setting a deadline for the new (to the U.S., anyway) smart card technology. While Americans are just starting to learn what a smart card is, it’s been (successfully) used in other markets for more than 20 years, making the U.S. the only major market on the planet still using the swipe and sign technology.

The ‘New’ Tech

EMV (stands for: Europay, MasterCard and Visa) “smart cards”

Uses chip and PIN or chip and signature technology and multiple layers of security, including an embedded chip and unique identifier, which can change at any time.
Why is it better?
Hacking a system to gather information on a chip and creating a counterfeit credit card is too complicated.
With a magnetic stripe card, data can easily be read, written, deleted or changed with off-the-shelf equipment, leading to high credit card fraud.

Drop in fraud losses after a market’s first year using EMV cards (2)
Drop in counterfeiting after a market’s first year using EMV cards (2)
Proportion of world’s total credit card fraud occurring in the U.S., despite accounting for just 25% of card use
More than 130
Countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America that have switched to smart card technology, making it harder for Americans to travel abroad with their magnetic stripe cards

Evolution of the Smart Card

When the current (magnetic stripe) card, which we still use, was invented
The EMV smart card is introduced in France
Smart cards start to make an appearance in the U.S. (10 million-15 million), but still account for less than 1% (3)
50 million-70 million estimated smart cards in the U.S.
October 2015
Deadline for rollout of smart card technology in the U.S.
October 2017
Rollout deadline for gas stations (more costly and complicated)

Why is the U.S. Late to the Party?

  • Hard to get a large market (10 million credit card terminals and 1.2 billion cards) to adopt.
  • Must get three sectors to work together to implement technology (retailers, big banks and card associations like Visa and MasterCard).
  • Expensive. The cost of the changeover is an estimated $35 billion, to be mainly shouldered by retailers.
  • Strong legal protection for citizens who have their cards stolen, resulting in a “so what’s the problem?” attitude.

Once implemented, the liability will no longer fall onto the consumer.

smart cards