PhotoAccording to Visa, consumers have received more than 265 million Visa credit and debit cards, making the U.S. the largest market for chip-embedded cards in the world.

However, just 20% of all merchant locations now have chip-enabled terminals.

Back in February, payments consultant Allen Weinberg speculated that large retailers are reluctant to begin using the new terminals because they think they are inefficient.

“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.

Visa has announced a chip technology upgrade that it says will speed things up a bit and perhaps prompt more retail outlets to start using the chip-enabled terminals. The upgrade is called Quick Chip and is available at no charge to payment processors, banks, and other payment networks to offer to merchants.

Speeds up processing

Visa says Quick Chip streamlines chip card transactions by speeding up the processing. As a result, a customer can dip and remove his or her EMV chip card in two seconds or less, even removing the card before the transaction has completed processing.

The net result, says Visa, will be faster checkouts and processing. The card can be inserted and removed while items are still being scanned – a feature of the magnetic strip cards that makes them more efficient, if less secure.

In fact, Mark Nelsen, a senior vice president at Visa, says the upgrade will make the checkout experience using the chip cards comparable to the ease and speed of magnetic strip transactions.

Liability shift

The chip card readers were introduced in October, when liability for fraudulent transactions passed from credit card companies to merchants. The chip cards are more secure, though the National Retail Federation has argued that requiring only a signature when using the cards, and not a PIN, is a very real security flaw.

While most consumers have now received at least one chip-embedded debit or credit card, they aren't finding many places where they can use the new technology. Visa says its technology upgrade addresses a very real reason why.

Visa says the software needed for the upgrade can be downloaded with ease to any chip-compliant payment terminal. It says the technology will function with all cardholder verification methods, including signature and PIN. It does not require a merchant to make any changes to the way transactions are routed or handled.

It also does not require further testing if the terminal has already been certified as EMV chip compliant.