Nearly all merchants and card issuers are subject to the so-called EMV liability shift, with one notable exception: self-service gas pumps (or “automated fuel dispensers,” in the language of the credit card industry). Whereas other retailers who don’t upgrade their payment terminals will bear additional liability for fraud starting October 1, gas stations will get an additional two years to make their pumps EMV-compliant.
Why are gas pumps an exception? Upgrading a gas pump’s payment terminal is expensive — costing far more than what other retailers face to upgrade a typical credit card reader. First, there’s the cost of replacing the payment terminal itself. But gas pumps also have to be certified by state officials, who verify that they are dispensing and charging correctly. When a gas station replaces the payment terminal, it also needs to re-certify the entire pump, which costs additional time and money.
What does this mean for you? Consumers need to be vigilant when paying at self-service gas pumps. While gas stations are getting a break, you should keep in mind that this break extends the time in which your card might be exposed to counterfeit credit card fraud. The EMV chip in your credit card protects you only when it’s being used. Whenever you swipe the old-fashioned magstripe on the back of your EMV-chipped card, that EMV chip is not doing anything.
It’s logical to assume that fraudsters will be targeting non-chip payment terminals while they still can — and outdoor self-service fuel pumps are already one of their favorite targets for credit card skimming. Consumers need to keep up their guard at any retailer that asks them to swipe — as opposed to dip — their credit card, and, due in part to the two-year extension, they’ll need to remain vigilant for a while yet.
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