Transitioning to EMV: Smart and Simple Tips for Getting Ready

Boutique: Caucasian Woman with Credit Card

If you’re a US retailer, then you’ve likely heard about the country’s transition to the more secure EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and VISA) payment standard. Consumers will soon be using chip-and-PIN cards instead of the traditional magnetic stripe (aka “swipe-and-sign”) cards at checkout, and beginning October 1, 2015, retailers who haven’t geared up for the technology will be liable for fraudulent costs incurred through EMV cards.

Vend has recently published a primer on the topic. But to take things a step further, we decided to get into more detail about the steps you need to take to successfully make the switch.

Below you’ll find additional information on the right EMV equipment and what you need to do to ensure that you get the technology on time. We also give you a closer look at the distinctions between EMV and magnetic stripe cards, and share tips on how you can best educate your staff and customers about the technology.


Upgrading your payment terminals or card readers

It’s important to note that upgrading your equipment isn’t just about purchasing a new POS terminal or card reader. First, you have to get in touch with your merchant services provider to discuss which devices are best for your business and iron out any compatibility issues with the systems you already have in place.

You also need to confirm that your provider can give you equipment that is both EMV certified and enabled. This, according to TouchSuite’s managing director Gary Rutledge, is a critical distinction.

See, in order for a device to truly be EMV-ready, it must comply with the standards of EMVCo, the entity in charge of managing, maintaining, and enhancing the EMV Specifications for Payment Systems. The device must go through a number of tests to ensure security and reliability before it can be considered certified and enabled.

“There’s a fair number of credit card devices that have been placed in the marketplace in the last couple of years and they contain the reader or the card slot where you can stick the EMV card in, but they may not yet be enabled or certified,” Rutledge says.

Needless to say, when you’re gearing up for EMV, you should see to it that the equipment you’re getting adheres to the standards of EMVCo.


Act quickly

The deadline for transition to EMV may be 10 months away, but you shouldn’t procrastinate on getting the ball rolling on this task.

Rutledge cautions that waiting to upgrade could prevent you from getting the right equipment on time. “There are literally tens of millions points of purchase in the US, and if everybody waited until the middle or third quarter of 2015 and decided to make a mad rush to get equipment, the logistics of that would be impossible,” he says.

This is especially important if you’re a small or medium-sized retailer, because the last thing you want is to compete with larger stores. Rutledge adds, “If you think about Best Buy, or any other big chain with thousands of stores and tens of thousands points of purchase, and they get in front of you in line, it’s going to be very difficult for you to push through the crowds and the noise to try to get your smaller number, 10-location retailer [or a merchant with even fewer outlets] up and running.”

“My advice is to talk to a provider that has certified and enabled equipment, and get yourself switched out now before the mad rush puts you at the end of the line and you’re out of compliance because nobody can get to you.”


Accepting chip cards vs. magnetic stripe cards

The process of accepting EMV cards is different from that of swipe-and-sign cards in a number of ways.

Unlike magnetic stripe cards, which are swiped and then promptly returned to the customer, EMV cards have to be inserted into a slot—and they have to stay in there—for the entire duration of transaction. And, instead of customers using their signature to approve a transaction, when using EMV cards they will need to enter a PIN number to confirm the sale.

Obviously, this new process will take some getting used to, which is why retailers should take steps to educate both their staff and their customers, to help them get up to speed on EMV.

Training your staff on operating the equipment is actually pretty easy, notes Rutledge. “The terminal functionality is really simple for anybody who’s in a business that’s using either a point of sale system or a terminal,” he says.

The bigger challenge lies in educating your customers. As Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners put it, “The transition from simply swiping a credit card to inserting credit cards in the terminal and leaving it in the payment terminal until the transaction is completed will be a major adjustment for consumers.”

That’s why you should devote considerable resources to educating your customers on EMV. After you’ve upgraded, come up with a communication strategy (i.e., emails, signage, etc.) to give shoppers a heads-up about the change.

Ask your vendors if they provide signage or educational materials that you can use in your store or send to customers. Payline Data, for example, has a nice looking information sheet detailing why EMV is more secure, while Smart Card Alliance has a fact sheet about the technology. You may also want to keep an eye on the merchant websites of card companies like Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, as they may soon start providing EMV-centric signs and decals for retailers.

Finally, instruct your staff to mention EMV to customers who aren’t familiar with the technology. In some cases, your employees may even have to walk shoppers through the steps and remind them when to insert and when remove their card from the slot (as some of them may forget).


Bottom line

Adopting this new payment standard is one of the smartest decisions you can make for your business in 2015. In addition to making transactions more secure for your customers, complying with EMV protects you from fraud liability.

Making the switch to EMV isn’t just important, it’s also time-sensitive. As we mentioned earlier, there are millions of points-of-purchase that need to make the transition, so waiting until the last minute could prevent you from getting the equipment you need on time. To reiterate what Rutledge said, it’s best to “get yourself switched out now before the mad rush puts you at the end of the line.”

Do you have any questions or concerns regarding EMV? Let us know in the comments.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

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