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SURVEY: More than 1 in 3 Consumers Still Experiencing Friction Using EMV-Enabled Chip Cards In-Store


In October 2015 the liability for fraudulent card-present transactions shifted to U.S. merchants and card processors who hadn’t yet adopted Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) standards. Six months later retailers are still struggling to accept and process the new chip cards, and consumers are struggling to make payments using them. In fact, more than 1 in 3 consumers (37.4 percent) have encountered a chip card reader that was not working at the time of checkout when making a purchase.

Walker Sands Communications surveyed 575 U.S. consumers to evaluate their experiences using the new chip cards at their favorite stores. The results showed retailers and card processors have been slow to roll out new EMV-enabled card readers, update customers on the new changes and properly equip front-line staff to help oversee a seamless purchasing experience.

“The transition to EMV has significantly reduced instances of card-present fraud in other parts of the world where the standard was introduced, and the potential exists for the U.S. as well,” said Andrew Cross, Vice President and Partner, Walker Sands Communications. “Our survey reveals major pain points still exist among U.S. consumers using chip cards in-store, and insights into those frustrations can help every player of the payments ecosystem – from merchants and processors, to card issuers and financial institutions – implement the technology while minimizing major fraud and customer losses.”

Other key findings of The Switch to EMV include:

Outdated accounts lead to failed online payments.

With more consumers turning to recurring payments and online subscriptions, the ability to store and use credit and debit card information on websites and within mobile apps can mean the difference between a cleared or late payment. EMV has proved to be no exception to this rule, with many consumers experiencing billing issues after failing to update their accounts with new chip card information:

  • Nearly 2 in 5 consumers (39 percent) had to update online accounts or recurring billing after receiving their new EMV cards.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 consumers (9.4 percent) had missed or failed to make a payment as a result of not updating accounts with the new card information.
  • 40.8 percent of those 18-24 years old updated their online accounts with the new EMV card information, versus just 21.4 percent of those 60 years and older.

“While most think of EMV in the context of card-present transactions, it’s clear that security standards like these can have implications across all payment channels, including card-not-present,” Cross said. “E-commerce and card-issuing companies must ensure consumers are informed of how EMV can impact both the in-store and online experience, as more consumers take advantage of online bill payments and on-demand mobile services for the added convenience.”

Limited card reader availability inhibits adoption

While many U.S. consumers received EMV-enabled credit and debit cards in advance of the liability shift, actual card usage has experienced a slow start with payment processors and retailers struggling to introduce and integrate working chip card readers at the point-of-sale with efficiency:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 consumers (17 percent) have never made an in-store purchase using a chip card reader.
  • More than 1 in 3 consumers (37.4 percent) have encountered a chip card reader that was not working at the time of checkout.
  • Only 10.3 percent of consumers report using a chip card reader in-store all of the time.

“Outdated or malfunctioning card readers can leave consumers with the impression that EMV is not a priority and cause them to continue swiping their cards using the magnetic stripe, further hindering adoption,” Cross said. “To protect themselves and their customers against possible fraud, retailers and card processors need to align on EMV integration by ensuring both mobile and POS hardware is updated and working.”

Knowledge gap on the front lines causes customer confusion

In addition to unreliable technology, the customer service experience of using EMV cards in-store leaves something to be desired. A lack of preparedness, knowledge and confidence among retail staff has many consumers feeling confused about paying with chip cards:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 consumers (23.7 percent) report encountering cashiers who were unfamiliar with the EMV process and/or could not guide customers through the process.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 consumers (30.7 percent) report experiencing confusion when using a chip card to pay in-store.
  • Consumers 60 years and older are nearly twice as likely (66.7 percent) than consumers ages 18-29 years old (34.6 percent) to experience confusion about where to insert a chip card.

“Closing the EMV knowledge gap among in-store employees is critical to maintaining a loyal customer base through the chip card transition,” Cross said. “Retailers should work with their processors to compile training materials and educate all staff on how EMV card readers work, questions to anticipate and the most common missteps customers will take.”

About Walker Sands Communications 
Walker Sands is a public relations and digital marketing agency for technology and business-to-business companies. With offices in Chicago and San Francisco, Walker Sands was founded in 2001 to provide data-driven marketing support for a wide array of companies with the business mission of providing best-in-class communications counsel and services. Walker Sands is a three-time Inc. 5000 Honoree and has received several other industry-specific awards, such as PRSA Skylines, Hermes and PR Daily, among others. To learn more, visit