Predicting winners and losers in the EMV rollout

Jen A. Miller

emv chip

We're just a couple months shy of the big EMV liability shift. That's when companies that don't accept chip-enabled debit and credit cards take on financial responsibility for hacks and fraud.

But who's ready? Who's not? And who will come out ahead when that October 1 deadline rolls around?

"We operate a very large, diversified, complex payments ecosystem in the U.S.," says Randy Vanderhoof, director of the EMV Migration Forum. "We have thousands of issuers of payment cards. We have millions of merchant retailers and tens of millions of point of sale devices that all need to be upgraded and changed to support EMV."

The reactions that banks, retailers and consumers have will be just as varied and wide. But here's who, right now, looks to be coming out ahead, and who could be left behind.

EMV winners

Those who are already in position and ready will be the ones in the winner's circle. That goes for both financial institutions and merchants.

On the banking side, the big banks which issue most of the credit cards in the United States are "on the leading edge of adoption," Vanderhoof says. For big box retailers, it's the same.

Small mom and pop stores are in a good position to make the change too, Vanderhoof adds. That's because replacing their point of sale terminal is relatively easy. "Many smaller merchants who either rent or lease their payment terminals have a much easier path to EMV by simply calling up their bank or their processor and ordering a replacement terminal. They can be up and running in a week's time," Vanderhoof says.

Even bigger winners if that term applies in this situation will be those who made the choice to adopt EMV and then got hit with fraud. Those companies simply "do not have to pay for it, because they purchased the appropriate equipment," says Barrie VanBrackle, co-chair of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips' global payments and consumer financial services practice group.

Card brands can also be winners, says Bob Legters, senior vice president of payment products for FIS, because issuing new cards has created an opportunity for them to rebrand. "We told [our clients] this is a great time to update my logo, change my card art, change my colors," he says. "I don't think there's a loser since it forced everybody to take some time and focus on this part of the program."

Legters expects retailers to be winners further down the line, too, when they start using the technology capabilities available on a chip. "Everybody's sticking their toe in the water," he says. "Mass enablement will give us huge information base."

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