The Truth About EMV in the US: Can We Jump to Mobile Payment and Skip EMV?

Last updated: 21 March 2014

As part of our blog series, The Truth about EMV, we’re discussing some popular misconceptions and myths surrounding EMV payment technology.  Earlier this month we discussed the fundamental question, is EMV coming to the United States or not?  The answer was a resounding yes, EMV is well on its way to becoming a dominate payment technology in the U.S.

Myth #2: The timing is not right to move to EMV chip cards and we should jump straight to mobile payments.

The Truth: Mobile payments and EMV chip cards will BOTH likely be big players in the payment ecosystem.

Why EMV? Firstly, the rest of the world has already implemented the technology, so we are moving to an interoperable payment method that will make paying internationally more convenient.  Americans need to be able to use their credit cards abroad.   Respectively, we need to provide a way for foreign tourists in our country to securely pay with their EMV cards.  It makes sense to adopt a technology that is the global standard for card payment.  To our benefit, the U.S. is learning from the many implementations in other countries, so our migration can be smoother.

A recent Forbes article by Monique Antonette Lewis and Jessica McHugh reported on part of the debate about moving to EMV chip payment cards versus moving straight to mobile payments.  The truth is that there doesn’t need to be a debate, because EMV and mobile payments are complementary technologies.

The point-of-sale terminals that accept EMV contact and contactless cards will also be ready to accept NFC mobile payments as they are based on the same international standards, so consumers can use the same tap & pay gesture whether paying by card or smartphone. For this reason, many card issuers are offering dual interface cards to their customers – these are cards that can be read by both contact and contactless readers, a very attractive feature to consumers.  Merchants also love the contactless option because it greatly increases check-out speed, reducing lines and making customers happy.

What about ATMs and fuel terminals?  It is unlikely that these terminals will be updated to accept mobile payments, but there have already been mandates by the major card issuers to update ATM and fuel terminals with EMV readers in the next few years.

And let’s not forget the power of consumer choice.  While some people are eagerly using mobile payments, not everyone owns a smart phone or prefers to pay that way.  Much of the population remains entrenched in their comfort with credit card technology, and EMV chip cards will suit those customers perfectly.  EMV and mobile payments together will provide consumers with a convenient choice of payment options.

Stay tuned for more discussions on EMV myths: EMV for merchants, banks, and benefits to consumers.