Some users will 'kick and scream' at paying with slower chip cards

Confusion expected as consumers adapt to using smart cards and new point-of-sale terminals

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Belfany said consumers won't face any liability if their chip card data is compromised, just as they won't today, but they will be "keenly interested in the security of their information." Encryption and tokenization are enabled with chip cards, and mobile wallets, to enhance security.

U.S. progress toward smart cards

Even though there will be confusion and hesitation when consumers start using the smart cards, Belfany and Graham agreed that the new cards will be adopted more quickly in the U.S. than in other countries. Many U.S. travelers to other countries are already familiar with how they work.

While it took Canada as long as eight years to roll out smart chip cards, it might take the U.S. just four, they said.

"Other countries have taken years to migrate, and while we in the U.S. are coming from behind, we're likely to finish faster than any country," Belfany said. "The projections we are seeing say we'll be at 95% [of smart card issuance] by the end of 2017."

"If it takes us three years to get it done, in terms of a historical perspective, that's reasonable progress," Graham added.

The number of smart cards that will be issued by the end of 2015 by eight major banks (who make up half the total U.S. credit card volume) will rise to 63%, up from earlier estimates of 40% to 50%, according to the Payments Security Task Force, an industry group made up of banks, retailers, point-of-sale device makers, and others involved in the credit card industry.

There are 1.2 billion debit and credit cards in circulation in the U.S., which has a population of 315 million people.

Some banks claimed to have issued smart cards to more than 70% of their customers. Other banks, however, don't plan to issue smart cards to customers until their existing cards are set to expire.

On the retail side, the Payment Security Task Force estimated that 47% of U.S. merchant terminals will support smart chip technology by the end of 2015. However, some analysts have said it could take up to a decade for smart chip capability to be included in 90% of the estimated 12 million merchant terminals in use.

Belfany and other experts have said a large majority of smart chip terminals will also support NFC, for use with contactless cards or smartphones. It remains to be seen whether individual retailers will turn on the NFC capability, however.

Banks have pushed for the chip cards and supporting terminals to reduce credit card fraud and to lower their costs. In Canada, losses from credit card fraud as a result of smart chip cards dropped from $142 million in Canadian dollars in 2009 to $38.5 million in 2012 , according to the Interac Association, a payment network in Canada.

An inducement for updating the technology in the U.S. is that banks and card issuers have set an Oct. 1 deadline for when card fraud liability will shift from banks to merchants or to the party using the least secure technology.

Part of the faster pace of the smart card rollout in the U.S. could be due to consumers' interest in using them. MasterCard's polling shows that 33% of card users say they expect to get a chip-enabled card from their bank and will consider going to another bank if they don't get one.

But that doesn't mean the user adoption curve will still be easy.

With initial user obstacles with chip cards, "it will be easier to use a smartphone with a mobile wallet and the experience will be arguably easier," Graham said. "Smart cards could offer a subtle tipping point for [adoption of] mobile wallets."

Like many in the technology field, Graham said he sees the value of mobile wallets and appreciates the enhanced security of both smart cards and NFC-ready smartphones. But he's also aware that many average consumers swipe their magnetic stripe cards for convenience and might not adapt quickly to the change despite the increased security for their personal data.

"I'm an early adopter, but it took my wife a while to stop writing checks, so she's going to go kicking and screaming into it," he said.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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