The Effect of EMV Migration on Retailers

By Derek Webster, Founder & CEO at CardFlight

A little over a year ago, the U.S. EMV liability shift took effect on October 1, 2015.

The shift disrupted the credit card industry, directly influencing merchants’ businesses and the level of fraud liability risk to which they are exposed.

Over the past year, a lot has changed and both consumers and merchants are adapting to the new payments environment, but we still have a long way to go.

As attention and interest in the EMV chip card migration picked up from all sides, it quickly became clear that October 1, 2015 was not a big bang, but rather an interim milestone in a broader shift. Less than half of all credit cards in circulation contained chips, few merchants had deployed EMV-enabled solutions, and both consumers and retailers had limited experience completing chip card transactions.

More remarkable, there was a dearth of real data about where the market was actually at. While EMV was a hot topic in the press, most published statistics relied on surveys, individual anecdotes or forecasts rather than real transactional data. Since CardFlight process transactions on behalf of tens of thousands of merchants in all 50 U.S. states, we have access to real data about the cards customers are using and the technologies merchants are using to accept those payments.

We have built something called the CardFlight EMV Migration Tracker, a resource for consumers, merchants and the payments industry itself, to better understand the state of the EMV migration. Marking the one-year anniversary of the liability shift, we gathered the below data:

  • 78% of cards now contain EMV chips, up from 46% in October 2015.
  • American Express leads the way in EMV card issuance, with 96% of their cards now EMV-enabled.
  • 73% of CardFlight merchants are EMV-enabled, more than 2.5x the national average.
  • More than half (56%) of CardFlight transactions in September were EMV “chip on chip”, showing our success in leading consumers and merchants through the EMV migration.

Nearly 4 out of 5 cardholders have EMV chips on their credit cards. With roughly 30% of U.S. merchants now EMV-enabled, customers are getting used to dipping the chip instead of swiping the magnetic stripe. Of course, this only leads to further confusion with merchants whose terminals have a chip card slot but have yet to upgrade it with an EMV-certified software.

Amidst all this change and confusion, many people forget the main reason behind the shift: reducing fraud. Counterfeit card fraud is one of the leading sources of fraud losses in the credit card ecosystem, and EMV technology makes this type of fraud nearly impossible. For retailers who have completed or are close to completing their upgrades to EMV, MasterCard reports a 54% decrease in counterfeit fraud related costs year-over-year.

Whether you like or dislike EMV, and whether you have found the migration straightforward or confusing, one thing is certain: EMV chip cards will be the primary way to pay for in-person commerce in the United States over the next few years. While the first year of this migration has been a wild one, the trend lines are clear.

Interested in more data about the EMV chip card migration? You can download the full October 2016 CardFlight EMV Migration Tracker with charts and additional data points at

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