You may have noticed little shiny chips on some of your customers’ credit cards. Come October, you’ll be seeing a lot more of them.
They’re called EMV chips (EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa). The United States payments industry is transitioning to chip-enabled credit cards and phasing out less-secure magnetic stripe cards. Starting October 2015, businesses that don’t accept EMV cards will be liable for counterfeit fraud that occurs when customers use the new cards.
Here’s how to make your business ready to accept EMV payments.
1. Assess your current POS system.
The path to EMV compliance is different for every business, depending on the point of sale (POS) system in place. You may need to update your system’s hardware, software or both, or simply replace the card terminal.
“For the very small businesses (think mom and pop shops), their banks will provide them with a new chip-enabled terminal, so making the switch to EMV will be relatively pain-free,” says Jeremy Gumbley, chief technology officer at Creditcall, a global payments company.
2. Talk to relevant stakeholders.
EMV migration can be more complicated than just updating your terminal, so talk to your credit card acquirer, processor, bank and other parties involved in your payments system about what you need to upgrade and how much it will cost.
Once you know what it takes to become EMV compliant, create a timeline and budget for updating your payment technology, says Norm Merritt, chief executive officer of ShopKeep, which sells point of sale hardware and cloud-based software for small businesses.
“[Businesses] may need to spread out costs and allow adequate time to adjust to this new way of processing payments,” Merritt says.
3. Rethink your payments technology.
Becoming EMV compliant is an opportunity to rethink the way your business accepts credit cards; you don’t necessarily have to use the same point of sale provider you currently do.
If you are using an older system, you might think about upgrading to a system that works with a smartphone or tablet. You could also consider a system that accepts both EMV chip cards and contactless mobile payments, which products like Apple Pay enable.
“This is a great way to stay ahead of the game,” Merritt says.
4. Keep security in mind.
EMV cards are designed to cut down on counterfeit fraud and the use of lost and stolen cards, but they’re not a “cure-all,” says Hugh Thompson, chief technology officer at Blue Coat Systems, a Sunnyvale, California-based data security company.
“Credit card fraud still happens in Europe and other places that use [EMV] technologies,” Thompson says. “A tremendous amount of commerce happens online and EMV may not protect transaction data for online purchases.”
When you talk to your payments providers, ask about the security measures in place to protect your customers’ data, Thompson says. Additionally, come up with a plan for accepting payments in the event that your EMV-compliant technology temporarily breaks down.
If you resort to swiping customers’ cards in a magnetic stripe reader, for example, be aware of the potential for skimming: a method fraudsters use to steal card numbers when customers swipe their cards.
5. Train your employees.
Your work isn’t over once your EMV-compliant payment system is installed; you have to train your employees to use it. Unlike swiping a magnetic stripe credit card, customers will have to insert their EMV card into a terminal and keep the card there until the transaction is complete.
“[EMV] will be a change for consumers, so check-out employees must be equipped to show consumers how to dip cards in the POS, and then either sign or enter a PIN, depending on the scenario,” says Pascal Caillon North America General Manager at Proxama PLC, a global company that offers mobile- and EMV-compliant payment options to card issuers.
Hold a training session to teach employees how to use the new terminals, and for future employees, update your training manuals to include information about using the EMV terminals.
Looking to upgrade your payment system, or to start accepting credit and debit cards at your business?
Compare payment systems
For more information about how to start and run a business, visit NerdWallet’s Small Business Guide. For free, personalized answers to questions about starting and financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.
Image via iStock.