The Chip-Card Ninjas Weaning America Off Swiping

Bloomberg News – Getting the U.S. off magnetic stripes isn’t easy and could take years. There are long waitlists of merchants trying to get their terminals certified, and the hardware and software—as well as communication hand-offs to processors and banks—don’t always work perfectly together. Almost a year after the official switch to chip cards, only a third of U.S. merchant locations accept them, according to MasterCard Inc. An additional third are somewhere in the process of switching over, according to payment expert Crone Consulting LLC. Thousands of stores around the U.S. currently have their terminals’ chip-card slot taped up as they try to achieve certification.

For smaller merchants, it’s easier to outsource the process. That’s where Creditcall, and other companies like it, come in.

There are now dozens of such firms, part of a huge new consulting industry that has grown up around helping companies implement EMV. Boston Retail Partners, for example, sends teams of consultants to retailers’ headquarters to assist their sales operations and training departments. Companies, such as Accenture PLC, help banks get their customers and merchants to use chip cards. And others, such as Creditcall, are helping merchants’ technology vendors get hold of pre-certified gear to accept chip cards.

Altogether, consultants and various helpers are booking $2.6 billion a year from helping merchants get EMV up and running, according to Crone Consulting. At Boston Retail Partners alone, EMV-related business has been doubling or tripling annually for the last two years, Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead, said in an interview.

“It’s become a big business for a lot of firms. Because you really need expertise—because it’s very complicated—the rules are continuing to change, the vendors and banks are still figuring it out,” Kramer said. “It’s a full-time job, and merchants’ associates already have full-time jobs.”

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