Is Now the Right Time to Educate Consumers on EMV?

MasterCard’s U.S. EMV liability migration deadline for point of sale (POS) and issued cards (October 1, 2015) is fast approaching. Yet, while many financial institutions (FI) and merchants are in the midst of their upgrade plans, most U.S. consumers know little to nothing about EMV.


While most merchants implementing EMV technology are making plans to educate their service representatives – including guidance on how to instruct customer use, it is far safer for FIs to ensure their cardholders are made fully aware of the benefits and proper utilization of their new chip cards well in advance of making purchases. The worst thing that can happen is for the consumer to have a negative purchase experience with your new FI-issued EMV card, causing that consumer to reach for and use someone else’s card.  All it takes is a few of these instances to find your FI’s card at the back of the wallet.

The EMV Migration Forum (EMF) recently released best practices for educating consumers. According to the “Recommended Communications Best Practices”, it is recommended that institutions provide education in a tiered manner – prior to card issuance, at time of card issuance and continuing information.

Prior to Card Issuance

While informing cardholders about EMV technology and their new EMV cards is important, proper timing is essential. Information about the upcoming technology change should precede actual card receipt by only a short period of time – around two weeks – in order to ensure fresh recall upon receipt of new cards. Even more important is what is included in the initial communication. EMF recommends notifying cardholders to be on the lookout for their new card as well as providing a brief overview of the new security benefits and an outline of the main differences between magnetic stripe and EMV cards.

Upon Card Receipt / Issuance

Instructions and information provided at the time of card issuance is of the utmost importance. Proper communication with the receipt of an EMV card could make a serious difference in cardholder satisfaction. It is at this time cardholders should receive a more robust level of introduction to their new smart chip — including activation, use and security information.

As cardholders will no longer be able to simply swipe their cards at check-out, information received on receipt of the card should focus heavily on how to properly use an EMV card at the POS. Remember to keep items short, to the point and use graphics where applicable.  Cardholders are more likely to read an illustrated instruction card with warnings than leaf through a pamphlet.

One of the most important training messages is to share some of the messages the cardholder is likely going to be presented by the POS terminal.  Then, instruct the cardholder to follow the prompts that the terminal will offer.

After Issuance

The MasterCard EMV liability shift is coming in October 2015; but full EMV implementation – including ATMs and self-service gasoline terminals, does not come into play until the end of 2017. Due to the graduated transfer of terminals to the EMV standard, it is important to keep cardholders informed as changes happen. This ongoing communication can help keep them up-to-date on security as well.

No matter if you issue MasterCard or Visa cards, EMF recommends including educational information on statements, on card carriers, at the ATM, in online banking messages, through the call center, in your branches, on your website and through social media, as well as through direct mail notifications.

Communication about EMV to cardholders is important but the time to begin education is dependent on the upgrade timeline of each FI. Institutions should include cardholder communication in their upgrade plans and schedule education materials appropriately.

Paul Albright
An industry leader in the payments space, Paul Albright is Executive Vice President of Outsource ATM. 
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Troy LeBlanc
President & CEO of Outsource ATM, Troy LeBlanc has been helping financial institutions address their ATM needs for almost 20 years.
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