EMV for a Week Challenge shows more businesses need to adopt chips for data security

Last updated: 04 March 2016

Just before Valentine’s Day, we set four personal finance writers from across the U.S. to a task – call it shopping in the name of research. Our EMV Challenge asked those writers to complete 10 everyday purchases using “chipped” credit or debit cards and gather insights on real-world experiences with the relatively new technology.

Our participants gathered an impressive set of data showing that while many EMV compliance reports are spot on, others may exaggerate how many businesses are (or are not) ready to process the more secure transactions. For example, a January 2016 Gallup poll reported 48% of small businesses were chip-enabled, but interestingly our writers were only able to complete 23% purchases by “dipping” their EMV cards.

While a surprising number of small businesses like local cafes and gas stations have made the investment to upgrade their payment terminals, our participants found a significant portion of them have not actually turned on EMV capabilities. Results revealed that 30% of the small businesses that asked customers to swipe were using terminals with EMV readers that simply weren’t activated.

Big box stores – particularly those that recently had highly visible data breaches – seem closer to widespread compliance. Fifty-two percent of our participants’ purchases made at large businesses used EMV technology. However, some very recognizable fast food chains and supermarkets have yet to bring in and begin using new EMV terminals.

Because data security might not always trump convenience in consumers’ minds, we also asked the challengers to record the approximate duration of their EMV transactions. While some transactions were definitely speedy compared to the roughly 20 seconds an EMV payment needs to process, the overall average transaction time was a painfully slow 32 seconds. While 12 seconds difference may not seem like a lot, consider how much longer you’ll be waiting in line if there are 10 customers ahead of you.

While the results of our experiment admittedly are not the most scientific, they point to the potential need to enable contactless EMV for faster tap-and-go transactions. What is certain, thanks to our four shoppers, is that businesses all over the country – even some that are very likely to be targeted for data fraud – are not fully ready to chip away at fraud and avoid liability with EMV.

Congratulations to our challenge winner, Holly Johnson, and to the four charities selected by our participants, all of which have received a donation. Read more firsthand observations via each of our intrepid reporters’ posts recapping their experiences:

Report on “EMV for a Week” Challenge in Hawaii – Damian Davila – @idaconcpts

EMV for a Week Challenge: My Experience – Holly Johnson – @ClubThrifty

Don’t Expect to Dip Your Chip Card Anytime Soon…At Least Not in West Michigan – Maryalene LaPonsie – @themightywidow

My EMV for a Week Challenge is DONE! – Robert Siciliano – @RobertSiciliano

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