Inside a New Plan to Improve the Chip Card

July 19, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

The Europay, Mastercard, Visa (EMV) chip card has been a great advance for security, hasn’t it? Quite a bit safer to pull out that chipped card against that old magnetic strip. Anyone who’s used an EMV card lately, though, has seen first-hand the price of that safety: a really difficult user experience. There’s a new plan afoot, however, that may help improve the major downside of the EMV experience.

There are a lot of points where the new EMV cards can fail, reports note, starting with chip readers that may not actually be working in the first place. Then the issue of swipe or insert comes up, and the interminable staring at the screen, followed by the very real potential that you’ll miss the graphic prompt to remove your card.

This issue isn’t lost on card companies, who know full well if this doesn’t start working—and working better—cash is waiting to fall back or mobile payments systems waiting to fall forward onto. Fixes aren’t exactly easy to come by either, with payment systems potentially linked to multiple systems within a business ranging from inventory control to coupon systems.

So what can the payment card industry do to turn this around? The current plan is simple, almost deceptively so, and depends on incremental upgrades. Such upgrades are comparatively easy to bring into a system, and thus prevents the need to remove or alter several systems to put the upgrades in place. Each upgrade, meanwhile, improves the experience slightly until eventually it’s seamless and perfect.

The problem with this plan, of course, is that most customers are likely not as patient as the plan would require them to be. Customers aren’t going to wait around for months, maybe even years, of gradual upgrade to make the experience smooth and seamless. They wanted it smooth and seamless months ago. They remember when it was smooth and seamless before the EMV standard kicked in and effectively took it away.

Granted, security improved substantially, but like a room with no door or windows, what good is a system so secure that no one can use it effectively? To keep EMV viable, companies are going to have to make a better user experience…and fast.