Chip cards: A year later, fewer than 1 in 3 stores actually use them

File photo of a credit card with a chip embedded in it. (EDITORS NOTE: Card details have been pixelated)
File photo of a credit card with a chip embedded in it. (EDITORS NOTE: Card details have been pixelated)

Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

It was one year ago Saturday that merchants faced an Oct. 1 deadline to switch to gadgets that read credit cards with chips in them — or face the risk of eating fraud charges themselves. These are the cards you “dip” in the checkout terminal and leave there for a bit, as opposed to swiping them down the side.

What's happening? Well, it's going more slowly than anticipated, industry groups say. Some 44 percent of merchants have chip terminals but only 29 percent actually use them because of delays activating the service, according to the The Strawhecker Group, a consulting firm in the payments industry.

Among those not in a big hurry to switch to chips: Burger joints.

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That’s because reading the chip cards takes longer and slows down a drive-through or checkout line, while the risk of a fraud loss isn’t so high for a fast-food meal.

“If you are a crook, are you going to head to Burger King or the Rolex store?” said Jared Drieling, business intelligence manager for Strawhecker.

Supermarkets face a bit higher risk with items like baby formula that can be resold quickly, he said. Publix stores have recently activated the chip reader at many area stores.

Card giant Visa has declared things are proceeding "onward and upwards." Early reports showed counterfeit fraud was down 18 percent in the first quarter of its use, compared to a year-earlier period, at the top five chip-enabled retailers, it said.

The National Retail Federation, though, says say the whole process has been "frustrating for retailers and confusing for consumers."

“Most major retailers have done their part, but the card industry continues to drop the ball,” National Retail Federation senior vice president and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. “Retailers have spent billions of dollars to install the new equipment but card companies have failed to sign off on the installations in a timely manner. Many retailers have had new chip card readers sitting next to their cash registers for a year waiting for the card companies’ blessing. We wish they cared as much about security as we do.”