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Swipe it or chip it?: New credit card technology has slow rollout

Doug Twitchell, an associate professor of information systems at Illinois State University in Normal, embraces technology.

“I’m the type of guy that will try to use new technology even when it isn’t set up yet, just to see if it will work,” he said.

In Twitchell’s experience, many local retailers have not yet installed readers that can use the new chip card technology for credit card transactions.

“We have the hardware in place, but the software is something that Panera Bread is not going to roll out until next year,” said Michael Kerrigan, a manager at the Brickyard Drive location, 1401 S. Veterans Parkway.

That’s not unusual, said Robert McBeath, co-owner of BizzGrizz, a Normal-based company that helps small business owners find solutions to business problems.

“There are still a lot of merchants who haven’t transitioned,” he said. “Some of them are frustrated because there was a lot of discussion about this, but things didn’t move as fast as most companies planned. Some of the businesses have the readers, but just aren’t able to go yet because all of the software or data isn’t there.”

Angelica Traub, a clerk at Cookies By Design, 1520 E. College Ave., Normal, said the store has not made any changes to its machines, either.

“We haven’t had any issues with the chip cards working, though, and even if a card doesn’t work, it’s not a big hassle to enter the card manually,” she said.

Transactions still can be completed with the old-fashioned swipe of the card, but the business may incur more risk than necessary. If a counterfeit card is used at a business that has not upgraded its machines and software, the merchant could be responsible for the loss on the transaction.

By law, merchants must add new in-store technology and internal processing systems and abide by new liability rules. Consumers will get new credit cards – which must be activated – and learn the nuances of the new technology.

Chip-embedded credit cards no longer require swiping; instead, card-holders place the card into a machine and leave it there for several seconds so the transaction can take place.

“When there are major changes to any new system, there are going to be bugs and it is going to take time to work those issues out,” Twitchell said. “We are still in the phase where people aren’t sure what to do. You may have some that should use the swipe when they could have used the chip and some that are using the chip when the technology in the machine isn’t there and they need to use the swipe.”

Local merchants shouldn’t be in a rush to make changes, McBeath said. The possibility exists that business owners, particularly small business owners, could get scammed because of the confusion with the new system.

“A lot of telemarketers and salespeople are giving misinformation and trying to scare smaller business owners into purchasing equipment they don’t need,” he said. “In most cases, their own provider will provide free upgrades and so purchasing a bunch of new equipment isn’t necessary.”

A lot of credit card holders have not been issued the new cards. The new cards have a small gold or silver rectangle on the front, just above the first four digits of the card’s number.

“The whole payment process is still changing,” McBeath said. “Businesses will be leaning toward Apple Pay and digital wallet services and so we would advise that any businesses who are making changes, make sure you get something that will have that technology available.”

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