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Frankenstein – The Choose Your Own Adventure of US EMV

People hate change, and at least a few Americans loathe when someone tells them to do something (hello Affordable Care Act) or even worse, tells them that the European standard is better than what we have at home. 

So that’s the backdrop to our ‘choose your own adventure (nee, ending)’ book that is the story of EMV in the US.  With all of the negative sentiment around change, it’s no surprise that the industry said we aren’t ready for chip and pin, that change would be too much for us to swallow, it would fill call centers with angry calls about not remembering four digits (which according to disturbing research, most people would set to 1,2,3,4 or 0,0,0,0 anyway).  

So instead of a single agreed upon strategy, we have moved to a chip and (whatever the bank wants) strategy.

It’s no surprise then that industry pundits are sitting here today in late August, a mere month away from the approaching liability shift deadline scratching our heads on what to say and how to prepare the public. Almost all of the discussions have been around security, but security is only as good as its usability.  

My cash stash is extremely safe in a thousand pound fire safe, but lugging that around is just not practical.  It’s finding the happy place between security and usability that we need to strive for and unfortunately all of the focus we have given to EMV focuses on the one side while avoiding the other.

The US’s decision to go Chip and … has made it difficult in describing the process. Every experience will likely start the same way. The cashier will ring you, the customer, up, and you will go to pull out your card (this is where the story will start to vary). 

The cashier may take a few routes, allow you to swipe the card only to look at it and say, oh, you need to dip/ insert/ put the card in the slot, or proactively ask you if you have a chip card before you swipe and ask you to dip/ insert/ put the card in the slot. Now depending on how well the cashier has been trained, they will ask you to leave the card in the machine through the transaction or politely wait until they are prompted to do so. 

Depending on the scheme, a few possibilities will happen; your cashier will say that you have to enter your pin (which may or may not be true depending on your scheme…I call this the ingrained Debit mantra), you will be prompted on screen to enter your pin, you will be prompted on screen to sign your name with the inkless pen (please don’t be the person who uses a real pen on the screen), your transaction will go through and you will be prompted for a signature on the receipt, or your transaction will complete without the need of a signature (due to the dollar value threshold, which is similar to some of today’s swipe schemes).

Let me catch my breath!

Now I don’t know about you, but no wonder we have no clue what to expect! The monster has been built. We are in the “pilot” phase now and I have to admit, my experiences thus far have been anything but clear cut. Thank goodness for Apple Pay; it may just rescue us from the monster we are about to awaken. 

Head of Digital Banking Solutions

As the Head of Digital Banking Solutions, Mark works closely with financial institutions discussing, exploring, and examining market trends and key drivers in the evolving digital solutions space with a key focus on mobile, tablet and the future of wearable technology. Prior to moving into the sales organization Mark was Senior Product Marketing Manager for ACI's Digital Banking solutions. He was responsible for developing and executing product launch and go to market activities for the related product lines. Prior to joining ACI in 2012, Mark worked at Greenwich Associates as a Senior Project Director on their Custom Projects team. Mark holds a Bachelor of Arts from Lafayette College.  The future of Fintech and where the digital banking evolution will take us is at the heart of what Mark reads about, researches, discusses, promotes and debates. As a proud card carrying millennial, Mark's primary goal is to bring a fresh yet informed point of view to the discussion. It is truly an exciting time to be in the industry as everything down to the foundation of the financial society is being challenged by innovative individuals and start-ups alike. Mark looks forward to helping companies and banks alike navigate the disruptive environment they are in today towards a successful future.