Magazine Article | June 18, 2013

Why VARs Need To Care About EMV

By Henry Helgeson, CEO, Merchant Warehouse

A retail and restaurant POS VAR’s guide to EMV, and why you shouldn’t wait for the 2015 EMV deadline.

Over the past eight years EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) has become the standard for globally interoperable, secure payments. According to EMVCo, there are over 1.55 billion EMV enabled cards worldwide and more than 21 million EMV enabled POS terminals, representing some 45% of total cards in circulation and 76% of payment terminals, respectively. Ironically, while the U.S. is typically a driver of new technologies in terms of both development and adoption, we are just now preparing for a forthcoming shift to EMV. In fact, EMV is just one of an important — and opportunistic — wave of new technologies entering the marketplace that resellers and developers need to know. Following are the top five informational updates that you should understand about EMV and how they impact your business.

What is EMV?
EMV is a global standard for debit and credit cards that leverages chip card technology. Unlike traditional magnetic stripe (mag stripe) cards that Americans have been reliant on since the early ’70s, EMV cards contain a chip, or embedded microprocessor, in the card providing additional security and more control of “offline” credit and debit transaction approvals. EMV cards are available in contact, contactless, and dual-interface cards (cards that enable both contactand contactless-based payments).

For contact-based cards, a gold square is visible on the front of the card with a microprocessor chip embedded directly behind that square. When inserted into an EMV-enabled payment acceptance device, the contact allows the chip to connect to a unique reader, providing for power and data exchange (dynamic authentication) between the card and the reader within the payment device. There are two varieties of chip-based cards, chip and pin (consumer validates transaction by entering a unique PIN [personal identification number]) and chip and signature (consumer validates transaction through traditional signature).

Contactless EMV cards enable dynamic data exchange via near-field communication (NFC) technology that relies on radio frequency to connect the card by simply holding it within a few inches of an NFC-enabled payment acceptance device. Interestingly, research has shown that contactless transactions are approximately 53% faster than a traditional mag stripe transaction and some 63% quicker than paying with cash, adding speed as an incremental benefit to EMV.

Dual-interface cards are those that enable both contact-based and contactless-based payments, providing ultimate flexibility to the consumer. Dualinterface cards will also be required by card issuers in the U.S. to allow merchants to be compliant with EMV requirements surrounding the liability shift.

Regardless of the type of card, EMV requires specialized hardware for the merchant who enables contact-based and contactless payments acceptance.

Why are the card brands moving to EMV?
Mercator Advisory Group estimates that credit and debit card fraud costs the card issuers over $2.4 billion annually. One of the key benefits of EMV is that dynamic digital data is included in every transaction, significantly enhancing security and reducing the risk of fraud. When a consumer uses a chip-based card to pay at the terminal, dynamic authentication instantly identifies the card as authentic, approved and belonging to that customer. Additionally, when used with a personal identification number (PIN) an incremental level of identity verification is added. EMV is a much more secure transaction compared to traditional mag stripe, which is static and not only much easier to steal but also more useful to potential hackers. Fraud is also a major issue for consumers, with one in four consumers reporting that they had been victimized by credit or debit card fraud during the past five years, according to a recent survey.

Additionally, EMV migration in the U.S. will provide uniform global operability of payments. The lack of EMV has been a challenge for the past few years with a growing population of European merchants moving to EMV acceptance only, for credit and debit transactions, preventing the use of traditional mag stripe cards for Americans traveling overseas.

What is the timing around EMV?
In 2011, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express began announcing their respective plans for EMV migration in the United States, with the most pressing driver being the liability shift for fraudulent transactions. All four major card brands have set October 2015 as the date of the U.S. liability shift for domestic and cross-border counterfeit card-present POS (point of sale) transactions (Note: Fuel and ATM have varying liability shift dates that extend beyond 2015). As of October 2015, merchants not accepting EMV payments (contact and contactless) would be liable for any fraudulent activity, a risk historically and currently absorbed by the major card brands.

From a card issuance standpoint, many issuers, including Citi, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and Chase, launched the migration to EMV two years ago when they began phasing in chip-enabled EMV cards to their corporate cardholders and American Express recently announced the migration of its corporate cardholders to EMV cards.

While we are currently two years away from the liability shift dates, you don’t want to be the one left out as EMV migration accelerates and merchants begin requesting EMV-capable hardware. EMV must be treated as “table stakes” and successful resellers have already or will shortly begin implementing their plans around payment solutions and corresponding hardware that solves all of the requirements around EMV as well as the new wave of mobile payment and commerce applications.

What is required?
The mag stripe reader, as we have known it, is dying. EMV and new payment types, including NFC and QR codes, continue to gain traction, and with the forthcoming liability shift in 2015, merchants will require both updated hardware and software to enable them to accept EMV payments.

While EMV-capable hardware will require additional financial investments, resellers also need to prepare merchants to capitalize on new business opportunity around mobile payments and commerce. Looking to the future, merchants must be armed with payment acceptance technologies that insulate them — and their resellers — from additional disruption, including hardware swaps and time-intensive software upgrades. Additionally, you don’t want to have to re-terminal if and when NFC (EMV and mobile) adoption accelerates with consumers.

Education and planning are also keys as it’s the resellers’ responsibility to provide merchants with the necessary information and associated time lines regarding EMV and the liability shift, as well as integrated POS, payment processing, and hardware, in terms of EMV readiness.

Why not wait until 2015?
EMV is in the first wave of many new payment and commerce-related technologies that offer merchants’ immediate incremental benefits as well as future business opportunity in attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. Market leaders will be those resellers that get out in front of EMV, educating merchant customers and prospects on the liability shift as well as immediate and future benefits they will realize as they migrate to EMV acceptance. Proactive resellers serve as trusted advisers to their merchant customers, ensuring that they are preparing them for the future and providing added value in terms of new technologies. Followers will be those who don’t prepare and instead react to EMV later down the line, leaving their merchants guessing and somewhat ill-prepared.

No one wants to re-terminal hardware, but for resellers who understand the holistic view around EMV and NFC as well as mobile payments and commerce, the opportunity is now. Choosing the right payment technology partner today could protect you — and your merchants — in the future, provided that you select a partner that not only offers EMV and NFC acceptance, but also integrates with digital wallet providers and mobile commerce application developers. It’s these solutions that will exponentially drive incremental value for your merchants and new revenue streams for you, as resellers.

For developers, EMV presents another opportunity to drive out-of-scope solutions, fostering a more detailed lens on security and working collaboratively to reduce fraud incidence in payments.

If you look at EMV alone, it’s not something you probably want to address today. But if your perspective is more holistic around the entire payments ecosystem, then it’s easy to see why addressing EMV is worth doing sooner rather than later. There is no denying that EMV is coming to the U.S. and resellers are going to have to update the integration and swap out existing hardware. Why not increase the value of those respective efforts and look to enable NFC and PIN debit at the same time? If we could simply wave our magic wand and enable EMV for merchants (acceptance) and consumers (payment cards), the U.S. payments space would be significantly improved with enhanced security, reduced incidence of fraud, expedited payment options, and new business opportunity for merchants and resellers alike.