Chip Card Nightmares

by Raymond Pucci 0

Swipe, insert, or wave—those are the possible choices consumers face at the checkout counter. The painstakingly slow EMV transition aims to put an end to the swipe, as the following article describes how tedious the POS payment process has become.

Here’s what it’s like to buy something at a store these days:

1. Swipe card.
2. Get scolded by cashier to use the chip reader.
3. Insert chip and cancel all foreseeable plans.
4. Wait.
5. Wait some more.
6. Celebrate once you hear that joyless “Remove card” sound.

Next time you experience this, I want you to remember that it’s not you. It’s the banks, credit card companies, merchants, payment processors, terminal manufacturers and many others that have created this checkout catastrophe. But there’s a ray of hope: your smartphone.

After pulling out the stopwatch for over 50 transactions at various retailers in recent days, I can confirm that it takes twice as long to pay with a chip card than with a card swipe or mobile payment—on average, 13 seconds versus 6 seconds.

Think about it this way: If you made two purchases every day for a year with a chip card instead of a swipe or smartphone, you’d spend 85 extra minutes at the checkout counter. That’s nearly an hour and a half of your time, to give someone your money. It is completely understandable to think the U.S. transition to more secure chip-based credit cards—years after the rest of the world—is the worst thing to ever happen to our payment system. Except I now believe it’s the best thing.

It’s no surprise that the card networks are implementing ways to speed up the EMV card payment process at checkout, which can become an exercise in slow motion. Meanwhile, many merchants are still lined up waiting to get their EMV terminals certified. Savvy consumers are learning that the increasing mobile pay options will become the best checkout choice overall.

Overview by Raymond Pucci, Associate Director, Research Services at Mercator Advisory Group

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