The wait will soon be over for shoppers falling in long lines at checkout counters, at least for chip-enabled Visa card holders.
Visa has announced that a chip card software upgrade can now actually cut credit card wait time down to about 2 seconds at the checkout register.
Without the update, people who use chip-embedded credit cards typically wait for about 10 to 20 seconds to have their credit cards cleared. The chip is a security feature embedded in a metallic square on the front of the card that makes it almost impossible for scammers to break.
Waiting has always been a source of grumbling from both shoppers and retailers. Cutting a few seconds may not sound like a lot of time, but 8 seconds saved from a 10-second card swipe or dip in a 100-person checkout line could mean a wait time cut of more than 13 minutes for the cashier.
The Visa chip card upgrade addresses the widespread complaint of tedious wait time, which Visa has long wanted to remedy.
"We've definitely been talking to merchants about how we can speed things up," said Visa Vice President for Risk Products Stephanie Ericksen. Visa has started talks with major terminal manufacturers who so far have been receptive, Ericksen added.
The new software will enable customers to dip their Visa cards in 2 seconds, or less and they can do so as soon as it's their turn at the register, and without waiting for the cashier to ring up all their purchases.
The new technology is called E.M.V., an acronym for Europay, MasterCard and Visa. It generates new codes for each transaction, making it difficult to predict the new code. On the other hand, there is only one code on a magnetic stripe and it cannot be changed, making it easy for adroit hackers to crack.
Many retailers have fought adoption of the technology, arguing that it protects the banks while burdening merchants with added costs.
Credit card companies required banks to issue chip cards and merchants to use terminals capable of processing chip transactions, setting an Oct. 1, 2015 deadline. Participating banks and merchants also needed to get payment systems certifications from payment processors.
After that date, banks and merchants who have not updated to E.M.V. would assume liability for fraudulent transactions.
Many retailers have reported delays in getting their certifications. The delays have cost them losses in thousands of dollars in fraudulent transactions after the deadline.
Visa announced that merchants who wish to use the new software would not be required to get recertification.
The company is also making the software available for free to payment intermediaries like processors, terminal manufacturers, participating banks and other technology partners. For the cost of upgrading merchant terminals to accommodate the software, it will be up to the intermediaries to decide whether the merchants will pay or not.
Visa has so far issued 265 million credit and debit cards in the U.S. However, only 20 percent of merchants accepting Visa cards have chip-enabled terminals.
Photo: Philip Taylor | Flickr