Local retailers get ready for new card technology

One of the new terminals that is used for EMV point-of-sale transactions. Owners of Perennial Accents, a downtown St. Joseph retailer, ordered new processing equipment a month ago. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

One of the new terminals that is used for EMV point-of-sale transactions. Owners of Perennial Accents ordered new processing equipment a month ago. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — At the turn of the century it quickly became a norm for stores to begin accepting credit and debit cards for purchases.

Now stores will begin the switch to an updated version of card processing to coincide with the new EMV cards, otherwise referred to as “chip cards.” The cards are expected to cut down on credit card fraud.

As the owner of Friends by Design in downtown St. Joseph, Susan Mason made the switch early when she opened her business in March 2015.

“I’ve had it for the past six months and have been using it with customers prior to any transition,” she said. “The benefit is to protect the consumer. As a retailer, you have to do everything you can to protect the data you get from your customers. That’s why I had it put in early.”

The savvy business owner had previously worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co., and knew the technology was coming to the U.S. years ago. She had first heard of it through the company’s European counterparts and began wondering when the U.S. would begin the transition.

Mason said it can be a hassle for small businesses to update their equipment, but that’s where retailers need a good credit card transaction processor to help walk merchants through the change.

Customers have taken notice and have been asking Mason about using the chip cards.

“They’ve been hearing a lot about it and I get questions all the time about if they need to do anything different,” Mason said. “There should be no difference in shopping than what it was six months ago. We should be able to take any card seemlessly.”

Sheila Banasik got the new equipment about a month ago, but has yet to see any customers use a chip card inside her shop at Perennial Accents. She said the new card processor still accepts the traditional magnetic stripe cards.

Banasik said it was a fairly simple change as the processing company came and installed everything.

“It just happened to be perfect timing for us. We fell into doing the right thing by accident because we were having a problem with our last machine,” Banasik said. “We called and said we needed help. The company said it’s OK because you need a new machine anyway. Of all the things to switch over for a business, that was the easiest. I’m happy to have any kind of equipment that helps cut down on fraud.”

Wendy Hoffman, manager of Grins of St. Joseph, heard about the impending switch a year ago. Recently, she has had numerous sales representatives come in, asking if they could help provide new processing machines.

As a purveyor of clothing, jewelry and a sign gallery, Hoffman said they will continue to use the magnetic stripe-compatible equipment until they receive the newest card processor. She said they have already ordered the equipment.

“We have continued on with our same card-holder company,” she said. “We’ve had 20 years of experience with them and our rep there is great. One thing we do here, which other places should be doing, is we always ask for an ID when someone makes a credit card purchase. That’s for our customer’s protection.”

Fielding fraud

The switch to chip cards takes any monetary hit consumers experience from fraudulent activity, and places the responsibility on others. The burden of fraudulent charges is diverted to either the credit card companies or the retailers.

Any parties not compatible with the updated EMV technology by Oct. 1, could face much higher costs in the event of a large data breach.

If the business has a new machine that is compatible with chip cards and a consumer’s information was compromised, paying for the missing expenses would fall back onto the credit card company. However, if a retailer doesn’t have upgraded equipment, it will fall onto that business’ financial shoulders.

Mason said this is good because it’s important for all businesses to have upgraded equipment to accept these cards.

“Consumers are responsible for protecting their data the best that they can,” Mason said, “but we can help protect their identity when they are making purchases. That’s our responsibility. That goes the same for the credit card companies. If anyone’s identity is stolen, the credit card companies should stand behind them.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 1, 2015)

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