Chip and PIN cards are most likely a lot farther off than the card networks are hoping, say leaders speaking at a conference in Phoenix today.
American Express, Visa and MasterCard have set a 2015 compliance deadline for U.S. merchants and issuers to support chip and PIN cards.
But between the cost of doling out the smart cards, consumer education and the need for new terminal technology, banks aren't likely to jump into issuing the EMV [Europay, MasterCard, Visa] cards just yet.
Instead, most are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
A keynote speaker at the 20th Annual ATM, Debit & Prepaid Forum, D. Stephen Wooters, the head of US payments at RBS Citizens Financial Group, posed the question, rhetorically: "What is the value to customers?"
Debit card issuer panelists at the conference seemed to agree.
"My customers won't put in a PIN today," says Tom Heusinger, senior vice president of payments and internet at Bank of Oklahoma. "I can't expect them to do an EMV transaction."
Like most newer card technologies, the date at which complete adoption will happen is fuzzy, at best.
"Mobile is [just] like EMV, it's complex and that's why it hasn't moved," says Dave Willis, Navy Federal Credit Union's senior vice president of debit cards. "I don't think cards are broken."
He added that with his credit union's international scope, many of its members are working abroad, where there simply isn't a lot of demand for EMV debit cards.
There is a need for chip-embedded credit cards among travelers who run into problems making payments overseas, where magnetic stripe cards are not accepted.
Even so, Heusinger pointed out, not all issuers abroad are using the security standard, in part because of the complexity of conversion.
"Also consider that EMV doesn't solve fraud, it merely shifts some fraud," he says. "If you look at the misconception that U.S. issued cards won't work overseas, that is also not true."
That doesn't mean there aren't early adopters.
Bank of America (BAC), unlike most U.S. issuers, has already begun sending out the cards to customers.
In July, the Charlotte, N.C. banking company began offering the technology on many of its consumer credit cards.
At the time, BofA said it would include the chips in all of its newly issued Merrill Lynch credit cards, including U.S. Trust Accolades, BankAmericard Travel Rewards, BankAmericard Privileges and Virgin Atlantic travel credit cards.
"Today the target dates for EMV are advancing and getting closer," says Herb Fellman, a card network relationship executive at BofA. "It's difficult to make the business case until we have addressed fraud holistically... When we have a solution that doesn't just squeeze fraud from one place to another, I think the business case becomes easier to make."