EMV Part 2…Chip Timing

As I stated in a previous post, October 1st, 2015 marked the liability shift from credit card companies and financial institutions to the retailer in cases of non-EMV compliance.

On October 8th, 2015, I posted an initial set of observations post-EMV liability shift entitled, "EMV…Are You Ready?" Since that post, I've drawn my personal conclusion, "No, we're not ready for EMV."

I've drawn this conclusion based on 2 observations 1 month after the EMV liability shift:

  1. Less than 10% of my credit card transactions have actually used the chip on my chip credit cards.
  2. I've only received 1 additional chip card to replace one of five magnetic strip cards in my wallet.

Payment experts and media reported prior to October 1, 2015 that this EMV change will not reduce fraud. On October 8, 2015, the FBI issued an EMV alert, but quickly rescinded it to a warning.

Negative publicity on EMV change in the US has not changed the fact that Retailers have been forced to update their POS hardware, software, and update their systems with their credit card processing vendors. While the bulk of the costs have been with the retailers, let's not forget that banks, financial institutions, and credit card companies are also required to produce and send new chip cards to their customers.

In mid-October, I set out to see how/if the roll-out was working. I visited a series of micro-retailers that all dealt in soap / personal toiletry items.

These soap makers would be considered small retailers, or perhaps micro-retailers. Their soaps are priced $5 - $8 per bar. Most also sell lotions and body scrubs in the $10+ range.

I would expect that their average transaction value to be in the $15 to $20 range. They set up "shop" in a tent at weekend festivals and sell their soaps to festival attendees.

Soap Maker #1

Originally used Square for credit card payments until Bank of America convinced them to switch to Bank of America for credit card payments by offering lower credit card fees. Bank of American notified them about EMV liability shift a few months ago, and requested $250 to purchase an EMV reader. $250 is a lot of money to a soap retailer doing business out of a festival tent, so this soap maker made a decision not to purchase the $250 Bank of America EMV reader.

Soap Maker #2

Square terminal in her tent. Said she signed up for square EMV reader but had not received it yet. She wasn't concerned with liability since Square was taking the liability until she received her EMV reader.

Soap Maker #3

This soap maker was a little different in that she had a retail storefront in downtown Ellijay, Georgia. She had been in business in her retail location for over 3 years. She also had a square terminal. She told me that Square sent out the EMV notification email in June. She immediately signed up for the $50 EMV reader. She believes she was one of the first to sign up in June, but has not received her EMV reader as of mid-October. She said she heard that EMV transactions take longer than regular credit card swipes so she wasn't looking forward to the change.

She was enjoying her time now while she could use the credit card swipe method and Square was covering her liability until she received her EMV reader.

I had also heard from various expert sources that EMV transactions took significantly longer than magnetic stripe so I decided to turn my research over to my stopwatch. Using the stopwatch on my phone, I headed out to record the time of my credit card transactions when using an EMV reader. Here is what I found:


  • Transaction #1: 10.72 seconds
  • Transaction #2: 10.37 seconds


I inserted my chip card while the cashier was scanning my items; I started the timer just after she announced my total. Keep in mind that I previously swiped my magnetic strip card while the cashier is scanning and frequently simply have to hit ‘accept’ when she is done.

Old Navy

Old Navy was the only retailer with a description of EMV at the terminal to educate customers about EMV and chip cards.

I inserted my chip card, waited 14.16 seconds for authorization to complete, removed my chip card and was prompted for my signature to complete the transaction.


This transaction required multiple Q&A between the shopper and the cashier reminiscent of the "Debit or credit?" days, which delayed the actual transaction time.

Transaction Time: 28.05 seconds

Compare this to an Apple Pay or Google Pay transaction at Sports Authority at 5.5 seconds.

With the busy holiday season just around the corner, can retailers afford 5 to 23 additional seconds to process a credit card transaction? Brick and mortar retail associates are on the front lines of customer satisfaction and checkout efficiency metrics (i.e. how long a customer has to wait in line) so we have to wonder if retailers may be delaying EMV implementation until after the Holiday Season for greater customer satisfaction? Or are they waiting on their credit card processors to update their software? Or are they waiting for credit card companies to complete issuing new chip cards?

Perhaps my next foray on this topic will be to find out why the authorization time is taking so long? Is this inherent to the chip or related to lagging software and/or services?