How Your Small Business can Prepare for EMV Credit Cards

Nerd Wallet

Swipe-and-sign cards will soon be the wave of the past: Starting this October, a lot more credit card transactions will use microchips, or what’s known as EMV technology. To make the transition for you and your small business as smooth as possible, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to understanding the process.

Step 1: Know how it works

Understanding how EMV cards work is important, especially if your customers are also adjusting to the technology.

  • What’s an EMV card? EMV cards are embedded with an encrypted microchip and require users to either enter a PIN or provide a signature at checkout. Most cards used today come solely with magnetic stripes, which can leave users more susceptible to fraud. For more, see our guide to EMV cards.
  • How does it work? At checkout, users insert the card into a point-of-sale terminal; sign a receipt or enter their PIN; and remove the card. Unlike swiping, this process requires the card to be in the machine for the whole transaction. Whether a PIN or a signature is needed will depend on the card brand, the issuer and you as the merchant.
  • What are the choices? There are three types of EMV cards: those with contact plates, those with antennas for radio frequency and those with both. The contact plate, a small metallic square on the front of the card, requires the card to make contact with a terminal, whereas cards with antennas just need to be within range of the terminal to be read. (These contactless cards might not be as common at first.) If you know EMV cards well, you can help out customers and make the process that much easier for them.

Step 2: Get your new card

Contact your credit card issuer to receive a replacement card with an EMV chip. It’ll be easier to pay for your business expenses this way, so there’s no reason not to get ahead of the wave. To make the transition easier, the first wave of EMV cards has both a magnetic stripe and a chip. Note: This applies primarily to credit cards. Debit cards won’t be updated as quickly.

Step 3: Update your card reader

If you do offline sales for your small business, you’ll need a reader that can accept EMV cards. For example, if you use Square for mobile payments, preorder the new Square Reader.

So, what happens if you don’t update? By Oct. 1, 2015, liability for fraudulent credit card transactions shifts to the party responsible for the chip transaction not going through — and that can mean the issuer or the merchant.

Step 4: Bring the card on business trips

EMV cards are already the standard in much of Europe and Asia, so your transactions abroad will generally be much easier. Whether transaction verification requires a PIN or a signature will vary, but just having a card with a chip is the most important factor.

After following these steps, your small business will be ready to accept EMV cards and move forward with more secure transactions.

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