What you can learn from the slow and confusing adoption of EMV credit cards

We’ve soared past the Oct. 1 deadline for EMV credit card issuance and adoption. Unfortunately, very few companies – both retailers and issuers – have met the deadline. Many American consumers haven’t yet received their updated chip and PIN cards, and others – like myself – didn’t realize they had them already because they were never told. With this confusing process, issuers and retailers alike should be providing customers with proactive notifications so they know they have a new card and how to use the card.
Many Americans have yet to get their EMV cards, and others didn’t realize they already had them because they were never told.

OK, I admit it, I’m a procrastinator. I firmly adhere to Mark Twain’s advice to “never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” Take this blog for example. I’ve been meaning to write it ever since the deadline passed for U.S. adoption of Europay, Mastercard, and Visa (EMV) chip-enabled credit cards on October 1. But I’m not the only one who’s behind. The U.S. credit card industry has had a belated conversion to EMV with only 27 percent of merchants having adopted them.

Only six in 10 Americans have chip-enabled cards, and retailers are not yet ready to handle the switch. Which is a big deal, because merchants are now fully liable for any losses due to credit card fraud if they are not up to speed on the new EMV technology. And while this takes the financial responsibility out of the hands of card issuers, it doesn’t mean they should miss this opportunity to provide proactive customer communication to build customer trust and keep customers informed about this confusing change.

About a month ago, I received an envelope in the mail from a credit card issuer I have an account with but no longer use – I keep their card on a shelf in case I lose my wallet with all the cards I do use. I looked at the envelope, almost opened it, but then remembered Mr. Twain’s wisdom and put it in the “deal with later” pile.

Turns out the envelope contained my new EMV chip card with instructions to destroy my old card and call the issuer to activate this one. I know this only because my wife got tired of looking at my ever larger “later pile” and did some triage, resulting in the envelope being placed on my “honey do” pile (which any husband can tell you must not be put off, even until tomorrow).

If my wife hadn’t done this, chances are good that the new card would have languished forever, causing the card issuer to either send yet another or cancel my inactive account. Neither of which would be a good outcome for them or for me.

Which is why I’m finally getting around to writing this blog – I think the issuer should have done more than just put the new card in the mail. Not every customer has a proactive wife; they need the companies they do business with to be proactive instead.

It wouldn’t have cost the issuer much to send a text or voice message alerting me to the impending arrival of my new card, instructing me on how to activate it, and pointing me to online resources explaining the change from magnetic stripe to chip-enabled security. In fact, doing so would have leveraged the significant investment they’ve already made in the conversion to EMV.

If you go to almost any card issuer’s website, you’ll find extensive information about the new EMV cards, including FAQ’s, instructions on how to use it, even videos demonstrations of checking out at the grocery. But no customer will ever read these instructions or watch these videos unless they know they’re available.

Instead, customers may try and use the card the old way, get confused, possibly frustrated, and even if it’s the store’s responsibility to accept these cards, consumers are likely to call the issuer to complain. All of which could be avoided with a little proactive notification. Card issuers should be alerting customers of the switch and encouraging retailers they work with the do the same.

I can afford to procrastinate. They can’t.

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Brian Moore

About Brian Moore

Brian Moore, senior principal, industry solutions of Nuance’s Enterprise division, brings more than 30 years of experience in financial services, mortgage and collections operations and technology to the company. He is also our resident compliance expert, advising companies on the TCPA, FDCPA, TSR and other regulations impacting customer engagement.