October 2015: The end of the swipe-and-sign credit card

Most of the world uses an embedded chip, pin based credit card system. The US does not. That is going to change next year.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed MasterCard’s Carolyn Balfany to discuss the particulars.

Interesting reading. Of particular note, on the question of why the rest of world went one way and the US another:

There’s a historical view to this. In the past, other markets migrated for two reasons. First, there were higher fraud rates in some other markets, and they wanted to make this move to combat fraud. Second, this system can operate in offline mode – the card and the terminal can authorize a transaction independent of communication with the bank’s systems. In some other markets they struggled with robust telephony networks, so this offline capacity was attractive.

Both those factors were not driving factors here in America. Fraud was more prominent in some other markets, but what has happened since then is that as other markets migrated to EMV and became more secure, fraudsters migrated their activity to markets with less security. We saw fraudsters move over to the US market – they are looking for the path of least resistance.

There were also some more specific challenges to US migration to the new system. Because the US is one of the largest and most complex markets, the business cases for the costs had to be established. And there were requirements of the Durbin amendment, mandating all us debit transactions are able to go across at least two networks, which took some time for the industry to sort out.