As many consumers have likely noticed, most U.S. retailers have made the transition to chip-enabled credit card payments — a change that Visa reports resulted in a 76 percent reduction in fraud between September of 2015 and the end of 2018.
The one place, however, we are still swiping vs. inserting credit cards is at the gas pump. Although as many as 85 percent of fuel retailers have converted indoor payment to EMV standards, transitioning outdoor point-of-sale (POS) has been a bigger challenge.
With the new April 17, 2021 deadline for EMV transition looming, retailer anxiety is growing — particularly in light of recent world events. In an environment that is changing day by day, here are five tips for retailers that have yet to complete the outdoor EMV transition:
1. DON’T COUNT ON ADDITIONAL DEADLINE SHIFTS
In 2016, the credit card companies announced a three-year extension to the original EMV transition deadline, shifting it from Oct. 1, 2017 to Oct. 1, 2020 to give petroleum retailers time to work through challenges related to the shift. Having carried the liability for fraud at the pump for three “additional” years, credit card companies were not keen to make another exception this close to the deadline. However, within the last two weeks, Visa and Amex have granted a short reprieve of six months due to the current pandemic and requests from the industry. At this time, MasterCard and the other card issuers have yet to make similar announcements, but the situation is fluid.
In any case, these adjustments are in reaction to the extraordinary events of the current situation and limited in duration, so it is unlikely the date will shift beyond April 2021. For retailers in colder climates, replacing outdoor equipment in the winter months can be a challenge, further limiting the benefit of any extension. Regardless of the final deadline date, retailers have a lot of progress to make and an inevitably limited timeframe. Proceeding promptly is the best course of action.
2. CONSIDER THE COSTS
If a retailer has yet to make the transition to EMV, the cost to upgrade might be a major factor in the delay. Exact estimates of upgrading aging automatic fuel dispensers (AFDs) vary for each operator, but upgrades tend to run thousands of dollars per pump depending on the age of the pump and the physical work needed to install the system.
Unlike in-store, there are many additional logistical factors including how much infrastructure below the surface needs to be changed to complete the upgrade. Conexxus estimates upgrade costs to run up to $7,000 per pump (more if a total replacement is necessary) — a huge investment in technology that operators feel won’t drive sales, leading many to take a “wait-and-see” strategy on the shift. However, the cost of not making the transition is steep and holding off on upgrading can be a far greater threat to the bottom line.
Fraud at the pump has been on a steady rise, exposing customer data, damaging retailers’ reputation, and costing credit card companies approximately $400 million annually. Stations that do not upgrade to EMV will now assume those costs, which Conexxus estimates to be an average of $201,000 per store over the next seven years. Add to that the likelihood that opportunistic fraudsters will increasingly target the stations that have not yet made the transition, and operators could be bearing an even higher share of those astronomical costs. Based on recent reports from retailers, some major card processors are considering charging retainer fees of up to $50,000 to cover expected fraud liability for operators that do not upgrade by the deadline.
3. START NOW
Now is the time to act. One of the biggest challenges in moving to EMV is the limited number of technicians available to service a huge market of retailers that have yet to complete the transition. Another challenge is the lack of available software and hardware.
Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there was an approximately eight-week order lead time for hardware. While larger brands and operators with multiple locations may have been able to accelerate that timeline a bit, the fastest that smaller, independent retailers could expect to complete the transition was more than two months. That was assuming no unanticipated difficulties.
It stands to reason that shelter-in-place orders, travel restrictions, potential supply chain issues and other complications have pushed out that timeline. Whether or not an operator expects to be ready by the current deadline, getting plans in motion now will save hassle and money in the long run.
4. TURN TO EXPERTS FOR HELP
Fuel operators don’t have to go it alone when it comes to the EMV transition. A managed services provider can be a valuable partner, creating a roadmap for transition and beyond that will ensure a high-performing and secure network for EMV and future applications. Look for a managed services provider that also has expertise in PCI compliance and critical cybersecurity practices.
The two leading EMV-compliant POS providers, Gilbarco and Verifone, have created a certification to support their specific EMV programs, designating managed network services providers (MNSPs) that are familiar with deploying and servicing their EMV compliant hardware and software. Verifone requires that retailers work with a MNSP for its outdoor EMV solution, while Gilbarco strongly encourages it. Working with a MNSP reduces risk, accelerates the EMV upgrade process, and improves the likelihood of successful deployment.
5. THINK BEYOND THE DEADLINE
While meeting the EMV transition deadline may feel like a sprint to the finish line, upgrading POS security is just one aspect of network transformation that can help petroleum retailers thrive. View EMV transition as a beginning, not an end.
The right network will address the ever-growing demand for bandwidth, provide superior security (in addition to EMV and PCI), and power applications that improve customer and employee experience. A managed services provider can help map the future — from POS zone router replacement, to touchless payment, to digital signage at the pump — and make it a reality.
It’s important that, despite the volatile circumstances, petroleum retailers stay focused on the long-term financial stability of their operations. Retailers that seek expert help with EMV transition today will position themselves to thrive beyond the global pandemic, the EMV deadline, and well into the future.