More than six out of 10 credit card holders say they don't yet have a chip-enabled card, despite the industry's self-imposed Oct. 1, 2015, deadline, according to a survey conducted in September by CreditCards.com.
In addition, many retailers are only now upgrading and activating payment equipment at the register designed to process such cards, also known as smart cards or EMV cards. The cards are designed to lower the chance of counterfeit card fraud.
As of Oct. 1, 2015, retailers lacking the technology to process payments with chip cards became liable for fraudulent purchases. The survey data shows how far the anti-fraud chip technology remains from widespread adoption.
Michael Grillo, director of solution marketing with ACI Worldwide, which works with banks and retailers on payment systems, says his company estimates that roughly one-quarter of large merchants will be ready to accept payments with chip cards this fall. After that, the rate of implementation will probably slow until after the busy holiday shopping season because retailers are wary about the potential of introducing new payment equipment and software at such a critical time.
"It's going to be a little clunky and a lot of trial and error," Grillo says. "Hopefully, it will pick up, the merchants will be able to easily guide the consumers at checkout stands, and consumers will understand why it matters. Change can be a little daunting."
Most major retailers understand the potential for fraud charges and are able to weather those losses for a few months, Grillo says.
Source: CreditCards.com poll fielded Sept. 3-6 and Sept. 17-20, 2015, by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
Learning to dip
For consumers, the main difference will be how they use the cards at the register. Instead of swiping a card so that the machine can read the magnetic stripe, consumers with chip cards will insert the card into the bottom of the payment terminal, then wait for a few seconds until the payment is processed. After Oct. 1, cards with and without chips will continue to work at stores, regardless of the type of card-reading equipment a retailer has.
Katie Pietro, 44, of Roswell, Georgia, says she's not fond of the new chip debit card her bank recently sent her. "To me, it's kind of annoying, because I can see myself leaving the card in," she says. "It's easier to me to swipe the card and put in it in my wallet than to stick it in there and wait."
Of all the places she uses her debit card, she says only Target and Home Depot clerks have prompted her to insert the card into the bottom of the machine. She says other retailers seem to have card readers that accept chip cards but that workers at those stores have told her to swipe her card because the machines are not yet ready for chip cards.
None of her credit cards has a chip, she says.
The CreditCards.com survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, consisted of telephone interviews with 2,004 U.S. adults Sept. 3-6 and Sept. 17-20 (see methodology ). The results echo those of other recent surveys, which have shown large numbers of Americans unfamiliar with the switch to chip cards.
For instance, an August 2015 survey by ACI showed that 59 percent of cardholders said they had not received a new chip card, and 67 percent said they had received no news from their bank about what the EMV switch is and how it will affect them. Visa this week estimated that, based on their experience with other countries shifting to EMV, it will take two or three years until two-thirds of transactions are on the new technology. It will take up to five years to get to 90 percent, the card network said.
The CreditCards.com survey showed that:
- Just 32 percent of respondents said they have a credit or debit card with a smart chip. Fourteen percent have a smart-chip credit card, 6 percent have a smart-chip debit card and 12 percent have both. A full 60 percent say they have neither.
- People aged 30-49 were most likely to have a chip card, with 37 percent saying they have one. Those 18-29 years old were the least likely -- only 27 percent said they had a chip card.
- Americans with a college degree were more than twice as likely to say they have a chip card as those with a high school degree or less (51 percent versus 20 percent).
- Income makes a difference: 49 percent of respondents in the highest income category -- $75,000 a year and above -- said they had a chip card, while only 21 percent of those earning under $30,000 said they did.
The findings are similar to those in a CreditCards.com survey from January 2015, which found that wealthier and better-educated Americans were more likely to have already received EMV cards .
Randy Vanderhoof, director of the EMV Migration Forum, an industry group, says that banks and merchants are "making great progress" in implementing the switch-over to EMV cards and payment terminals.
"In the next few months, we will start to see the results of all of the work that has been put in for the last two years," he says.
He says that of the 1.2 billion cards in circulation in the U.S., about 200 million have EMV chips. That's proof, he says, that chip cards are becoming widely adopted.
As for survey results showing that people are unfamiliar with the conversion to chip cards, Vanderhoof says those results don't matter because "they will learn about it simply by using it."
"Very, very soon, they will use it, and they will like it, because it will be reliable and accepted everywhere, and people will forget about how they used to use the magnetic stripes."
What you need to know about the EMV switch
- Your cards will still work , whether they have chips or not. But the store cashier might tell you to insert your card instead of swipe it if you are using a chip card.
- You are still protected against fraud. If you see a fraudulent charge on your statement, call your bank. Retailers might be liable if your card is used fraudulently, but that is between the store and the bank.
- If you don't have a chip card and you want one, call your bank. Eventually, all magnetic stripe cards will be replaced with chip cards.
Poll methodology: Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted the poll on behalf of CreditCards.com, in two waves, Sept. 3-6, 2015, and Sept. 17-20, 2015. PSRAI obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 2,004 adults 18 and older living in the continental United States. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.