You Got Your Chip Credit Cards — Now What?

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You may remember that you got a new debit or credit card in the mail last year.

It probably had a little square on it that you may or may not have thought was a nice decorative touch. While it does add a certain amount of flair to cards, that square actually houses a chip that is expected to make credit cards more secure and less vulnerable to counterfeiting.

The finance world was buzzing last year because, as of Oct. 1, 2015, liability for fraud shifted to retailers. Or at least it does if the bank provides a chip card and the merchant fails to read the chip. In those cases, it’s the store, not the bank, which will have to eat the cost of purchases made fraudulently.

In the wake of the shift in liability, many people predicted long checkout lines and confused shoppers would be the norm as we adjusted to “dipping,” rather than swiping, our cards. Those lines and that confusion have failed to materialize in many places, but not for the reason you might expect.

Why are we still swiping our cards?

No, it wasn’t that the banking industry and media did such a good job preparing people for the transition – although we did give you what I think is a darn good overview of the process. Instead, the reason no one is confused is that no one is reading the chip cards.

Maybe your area of the country is different, but here in West Michigan, my chip card has been used as a chip card exactly twice. By that, I mean only twice has a retailer actually inserted the card into the terminal so the chip could be read. Every other time, the card has been swiped as if the chip didn’t even exist.

The befuddling thing is that virtually all the major stores in my area have updated their terminals to the kind that can read a chip card. Yet they continue to have customers swipe. Why?

It ends up having the right terminals may be only one step in the process of accepting chip cards. There are also software updates to be made and testing to be completed. Here’s what the National Retail Federation told NBC News in December:

It takes the average retailer about 19 months to get the new chip card payment system up and running, according to Mallory Duncan, senior vice president and general counsel at the National Retail Federation. Many stores did not have time to do that before the start of the holiday shopping season, so they decided to delay implementation, he said.

Duncan blamed the card processing networks, such as Visa and MasterCard, for providing the technical specifications to retailers late and delaying the certifications needed to turn on the new systems.

Enter the “EMV for a Week” challenge

We’re not the only ones who have taken notice of the slow adoption of EMV card technology. (EMV stands for “Eurocard MasterCard Visa,” which is the formal name for chip cards.) Gemalto, a digital security firm, is wondering what’s up too.

While there are plenty of statistics out there to tell us how many chip card readers have been installed and how many transactions have been processed, that doesn’t necessarily provide an accurate picture of what’s happened in the real world.

To get a better handle on customer experiences in stores across the country, Gemalto is running an “EMV for a Week” challenge. They’ve asked a handful of personal finance writers from across the country, including me, to take our EMV cards for a spin and try them out at local businesses big and small. Specifically, we need to complete the following 10 tasks:

  1. Get coffee at a local (not chain) coffee shop
  2. Make any purchase at a big-box store (Target, Walmart, Best Buy, etc.)
  3. Get a meal inside a fast food restaurant
  4. Buy a magazine at a gas station
  5. Get $50 worth of groceries
  6. Buy a tacky t-shirt
  7. Get someone special a bouquet of flowers
  8. Hit a tourist attraction in your town
  9. Buy office supplies for your co-worker(s)
  10. Mail a postcard from your local post office

First person to complete all 10 tasks wins $400 for the charity of their choice. I’m playing for the Lowell Pink Arrow Project, a hometown charity that provides support to families affected by cancer and other serious illnesses.

Join the challenge at home

The challenge starts Saturday, Feb. 13, and wraps up the following Saturday. You can follow my progress on my (brand new!) Instagram account or on Google+. If you want to see what the other contestants are up to, search for #ChipAwayAtFraud across all social media sites.

Plus, watch for a wrap-up here on Money Talks News the week after the contest ends to find out who won and which stores are ready to read chip cards.

Of course, it’s more fun to be part of a challenge than to simply watch from the sidelines, right?

That’s why I’m offering to personally donate $100 to the charity of choice for the first Money Talks News reader to complete all 10 tasks. Here are the rules:

  1. Sign up for the MTN newsletter, if you haven’t already.
  2. Complete all 10 tasks with your chip card OR if you don’t have a chip card, or don’t want to make a purchase, you can observe someone else making a purchase.
  3. Post an update or photo on Instagram or Google+ (Those two sites only for this contest, please. I might not see them if you post elsewhere.) Tell me what was purchased and whether the EMV card was swiped or inserted in the terminal.
  4. Tag me with your update/photo (really want to see those tacky shirts!) and use the hashtag #ChipAwayAtFraud.

The challenge begins Saturday, Feb. 13. Post your updates as you go. First one done with all 10 tasks wins. If no one completes all 10 by 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 20, the person who has the most done wins the prize. If there’s a tie, we’ll do a random drawing to pick a winner.

Good luck!

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