FYEye On Payment Processing

Smart Cards-

Are they finally here to stay?

For years, the US payment industry has tried to facilitate national acceptance of smart cards. The latest push by Visa and MasterCard may have done the trick. In the fall of 2000, a couple of large card issuers began issuing smart versions of their credit cards.

Eighteen months later, there is still very little that a smart card holder can do with their smart chip. It is, however, gaining momentum. More and more companies are announcing future initiatives or offering exclusive coupons to smart card holders.

It appears as if the card companies and issuers may actually be approaching critical mass. Target is the first heavy weight to launch a smart card program. Their smart chip will be on their private labeled Target credit card. It is just a matter of time before some of the other huge retailers jump on the band wagon.

What are they?

If you aren't familiar with smart cards, they are credit cards that are embedded with a small electronic chip. This chip is electrified and accessed by using a smart card reader. This smart chip has the ability to hold a wide variety of information including passwords, coupons, loyalty programs, and actual cash value. Increased security is one of the primary benefits of smart cards. The cards are very difficult to duplicate and can only be accessed through a smart card reader and a PIN number. Smart card benefits will initially be felt by internet merchants who will lower their risk dramatically by accepting smart cards. Consumers wanting to pay on the internet must have a smart card reader on their computer (most issuers are providing readers at no charge right now).

They sound pretty cool! What's the hold up?

The key to smart card success in the United States is simple functionality for the consumer. The payment industry is searching for what they call the "killer app". The "killer app", in this case, is a program that will operate on a smart chip that will provide widespread benefits to an enormous user group. That means lots of people must easily see and be able to utilize the benefits of the chip.
Another hold up at this point is the cost of conversion to chip technology. According to industry experts, this cost will run from $7 to $10 billion. That's not chump change for something that, at this time, offers nothing of value to cardholders other than a cool card!

Do you need to worry about them?

No, not at this time. As they grow in popularity, merchants will start to see more and more of them. Smart card readers are becoming available, but most merchants won't really need them for at least a couple of years. Smart cards should be a consideration when upgrading equipment, but the lack of a smart card reader shouldn't be a reason for the upgrade.

Receipt Truncation

Effective July 1, 2003, Visa and Master are requiring all new programming in point of sale terminals and software to truncate the credit card numbers. This move was apparently made to expedite this security procedure, since it is taking too long for states to enact their own regulations. Most processors are being proactive as well and implementing the new truncation requirements ahead of the July 1, 2003 deadline.

Many states are now banning the printing of full credit card numbers on printed receipts. This is another effort to reduce credit card fraud.

By limiting the printed credit card number to the last 4 digits, your discarded credit card receipts can't be used to make fraudulent purchases.

At this time, truncation has been moving from state to state. It probably won't be long before there is a federal mandate requiring truncation nationwide.

No need to worry, you don't need to run right out and upgrade your terminal and printer. Over time, all terminals, printers, and software will only print the last four digits. Your equipment should be grandfathered (until 2006) as long as you don't have to replace any of it and don't require a new download for your terminal.

Look for it, coming to a state very near you!

Visa and MasterCard Loyalties
(just a reminder to merchants everywhere)

Many merchants question why Visa or MasterCard tend to always err on the side of consumers. They answer is easy, Visa and MasterCard are 100% consumer driven organizations. Without the faith of consumers, Visa and MasterCard would history.

Many merchants feel as if they are the key to the merchant services equation. The merchant definately plays an important part, but the cardholder is king. The best example of these relationships is seen in chargeback procedures. It can take very little effort for a cardholder to protest a sale. On the merchant's side, if you can't provide your processor with a card imprint (electronic or manual), an authorization, and a signature, you can forget about keeping your money for that sale. Those three things are the holy grail when it comes to defending chargebacks.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Visa and MasterCard are accepted almost everywhere. Merchants almost have to accept both cards just to compete with each other. The amount of money charged on Visas and MasterCards is so staggering that even very large merchants can't afford not to take them. Sam's Wholesale Club is probably the largest merchant in the United States that doesn't accept either Visa or MasterCard.

These simple facts give merchants very little leverage when it comes to dealing with Visa and MasterCard. This lack of leverage ultimately means the cardholder is and will remain king.

If you have questions regarding the merchant services industry, please don't hesitate to CONTACT US! We will help in whatever way we can!

Quick Links to
Card Companies

American Express
Diners Club