PhotoIf you’re the proud owner of a chip-enabled credit card, you’ve probably noticed that not every card reader accepts the new technology. Despite having a slot for the new chip cards, many terminals still instruct customers to swipe the magnetic strip instead of dipping the chip.

Only about 17% of retail locations are currently equipped to accept chip cards. In other words, just one in five checkout lines are equipped with an activated chip card reader. 

So why is it that so many terminals are EMV compatible but haven’t yet been enabled to accept chip cards?

Wait-and-see approach

According to payments consultant Allen Weinberg, it’s because many retailers (particularly the larger ones) are taking a “wait-and-see” approach on enabling the chip card transactions. It seems they’d rather leave the task of teaching customers how to use the chip cards to other merhants.

“They see [chip cards] as just slowing down lines and chose to wait until consumers learned what to do -- and do it quickly -- at someone else’s store,” Weinberg wrote.

Weinberg notes that small businesses are another factor in the slow incorporation of EMV cards. Many of them aren’t even equipped with a chip-card enabled terminal yet.

Why? Weinberg says that like larger businesses, small business aren’t in a hurry to teach their community how to use the cards. They also either don’t think they’re at significant risk of fraud or simply weren’t aware the shift to chip cards was coming.

Cost might also be a factor for small businesses. Chip card readers and installation can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars per terminal, as we reported. The industry average is around $2,000.

Liability shift

Now that we’re on the other side of the liability shift -- when credit card fraud became the responsibility of retailers instead of banks if they didn’t have their chip card systems running -- Weinberg says it won’t take much for merchants to “get religion,” as he puts it, and upgrade their systems. It’ll only take one instance of fraud or chargeback from people abusing the liability shift to motivate them to upgrade their terminals.

Terry Crowley, CEO of TranSend, a company that makes software to help merchants and their equipment work with the EMV standard, says there’s an invisible hand at work that is about to accelerate the incorporation of EMV cards.

“If you use a chip card at a point of sale that says swipe -- and you later say that wasn’t me -- there’s very little a merchant can do to dispute that charge,” Crowley tells Brian Krebs, adding that the "friendly" fraud is inevitable. “When people are made aware that if I swipe and I have a chip card, that lunch can be free if I’m a bad consumer.”

After this invisible hand takes hold, the U.S. will be able to jump on the chip card bandwagon with the rest of the world.

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