Half of U.S. consumers don’t have, and don’t understand, chip cards

Users remain uncertain that the cards will be more secure

More than half of U.S. consumers haven't received new chip-based credit or debit cards to improve security of in-store purchases, according to a new survey.

The August survey of 5,027 Americans also found that 56% aren't even aware what a chip card is, even though the technology has been widely used in other countries for years.

The percentage who said they hadn't received a chip card as of August totalled 54%. Banks have been mailing out the new cards with increasing frequency in the past year. Chip cards include an embedded computer chip for greater security beyond the magnetic stripe seen in conventional cards.

Banks have been speeding up the issuance of chip cards to bolster security ahead of an Oct. 1 deadline. That's when merchants must update in-store payment terminals to accept chip card transactions. After that date, merchants without updated technology must assume the financial liability in the event of credit card fraud; there are some exceptions, such as gas stations that face a later deadline.

Consumers will see no change in the liability they incur and U.S. banks and card providers will continue to protect them against fraud, though consumers are still expected to report a lost or stolen card.

Harbortouch, a maker of point-of-sale technology, commissioned the survey, which was conducted by Shift Communications last month.

Chip cards are sometimes referred to as EMV cards, named after the creators of the cards -- Europay, MasterCard and Visa. They are widely in use in Europe and Canada.

Analysts have worried about the slow rollout of new chip cards while the nation's largest banks have said they are generally pleased with the pace. Even consumers who don't have the new chip cards will almost always be able to rely on older magnetic stripe cards -- possibly for years to come, analysts said. It could take up to a decade for a full rollout of replacement chip cards and the conversion of millions of point-of-sale terminals.

As more retailers add terminals to accept the new cards, analysts have predicted that purchases with them could be confusing for some store clerks and consumers, adding to delays, even chaos, at stores during the holiday shopping season. Chip cards usually have to be inserted into a slot in a payment terminal and must remain for a few seconds, taking slightly longer than swiping a magnetic stripe card.

Some new terminals will support a contactless payment with the new chip cards, where the card can be touched or nearly touched to the terminal to authorize payment. That's similar to the way many newer Android smartphones and iPhones used Near-Field Communication technology to authorize payments with a mobile payment app.

The survey found that only 20.5% of young adults, ages 18-24, are using chip cards for purchases. But that group also had the highest usage of mobile payments with smartphones and other devices.

The survey also found 76% of consumers living in rural areas said they had used chip cards, compared to 64% in urban areas.

Also, 26% of Americans making $150,000 or more a year in income lacked an understanding of chip cards, while that percentage soared to 60% for people making $25,000 to $50,000, the survey found.

Finally, only 51% in the survey said the chip technology would make them more secure, although that number was higher for men (59%) than for women (41%).

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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